Wish Girl

256p. Penguin/Razorbill. Feb. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781595146861; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781101612972.
Gr 4–7—In this companion to Nightingale's Nest (Razorbill, 2014), 12-year-old Peter Stone's new home in rural Texas is completely unlike his previous life in San Antonio. Even in the quiet of the country, his family is too loud. They never stop to understand sensitive, introverted Peter. The boy soon ventures into the valley and meets the infuriatingly fascinating Annie, a self-proclaimed "wish girl." He wonders if she might be magical, like the mysterious valley. However, what she really means is "Make-a-Wish girl": Annie has cancer. Weaving in elements of magical realism, this modern story combines light fantasy elements with the harsh reality of Peter's life, including some harrowing past experiences with bullies and a period of dark depression and thoughts of self-harm. The fears and dreams of the characters unfold as they make difficult, sometimes life-changing decisions. The valley is a character, too, mysteriously directing animals and plants to help friends or hinder foes. Peter's first-person perspective is outshined by descriptions of feisty Annie, who dreams of becoming a world famous artist. Through the creation of site-specific environmental pieces, Annie teaches Peter about the transformative power of art and ephemeral beauty. Other themes include bullying and the value of listening. Peter knows the names and habits of many geographically specific flora and fauna, though it's never fully explained why a city boy has such extensive knowledge of natural science. Nevertheless, this is an intensely compelling story.
VERDICT This emotional story will be loved by fans of Nightingale's Nest, as the plot structure, atmosphere, and characters are similar.

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