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FICTION

Thirteens

Viking. Aug. 2020. 240p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780593117026.
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Gr 3-7–An enthralling mystery beats at the heart of this middle grade fantasy. Just before her 13th birthday, Eleanor is rescued from her burning home and sent to live with her relatives in the idyllic town of Eden Eld. Eden Eld is perfect—perhaps a little too perfect. No crime, no poverty, no graffiti on its streets, and though the mining and timber industries are long forgotten, money simply appears in the town coffers. But the price of perfection runs high; every 13 years, three children vanish from the community and are never heard from again. Eleanor and her two newfound friends are queued to be the next set of disappearances. Determined to fight back, they embark on a whirlwind adventure to save themselves and change the tide of history. Soon they are questioning who they can trust, including community pillars and their nearest and dearest, and scouring the town for clues about the arcane agreement that binds Eden Eld. Despite a promising premise and its interesting setting, the novel has plot and structure issues that make it a frustrating read. Eleanor and her friends solve several problems through spontaneous bursts of intuition and luck, causing readers to be given a chaotic ride rather than a carefully crafted story of suspense and resolution. But most disappointing was the tale ending in medias res. Mid-flight and mid-adventure, the three newly minted 13-year-olds barter for more time to solve their problems, and are granted an extra year. This disheartening finish leaves the work feeling incomplete.
VERDICT Recommended for larger fiction collections committed to also purchasing the next book in the series.

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