Signs & Wonders

Pat Lowery Collins, Author
Pat Lowery Collins, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $15 (192p) ISBN 978-0-395-97119-2
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Picture book author Collins's first novel takes a startlingly provocative premise and clothes it in the familiar tropes of the YA novel. On the eve of the new millennium, 14-year-old Taswell believes that God has chosen her to give birth to a prophet. As the novel opens, Taswell is writing letters from a convent school where she's been sent because her guardian grandmother, Mavis, is busy traveling. Taswell's mother disappeared soon after her birth and her recently remarried father is a loving but distant presence. In her loneliness, Taswell turns to Pim, a guardian angel with a ""misty green suit"" and ""glassy skin"" whom she remembers from her early childhood. Taswell writes him letters that reveal both her alienation and her miraculous transformation (invoking other pivotal events that have happened to young people: ""Think of Joan of Arc. Think of the Virgin Mary""). The resolution of this original plot is both surprising (neither consensual nor abusive sex is the cause of Taswell's condition) and at the same time disappointingly predictable (Taswell begins to heal only when an adult shows that she truly understands and cares). The epistolary form allows easy access to the protagonist's thoughts but not necessarily an easy identification with her. Taswell's sense of greatness (due to her special role), which separates her from her peers, may be off-putting to readers as well; yet they'll likely keep turning the pages to learn the outcome of the protagonist's unusual predicament. Ages 10-14. (Oct.)
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