River Boy ) experiments with fascinating ideas about the power of music, but his novel takes too long to unfold, and ultimately becomes overly complicated"/>
 

FIRMAMENT

Tim Bowler, Author
Tim Bowler, Author . S&S/McElderry $16.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-689-86161-1
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Bowler (River Boy ) experiments with fascinating ideas about the power of music, but his novel takes too long to unfold, and ultimately becomes overly complicated. Luke, a musical genius with the ability to hear sounds as small as "the feather-touch" of cat paws in the garden, joins a gang of bad boys after the death of his father, a concert pianist. When Skin, the group's leader, forces Luke to break into the home of Mrs. Little, Luke discovers "the ugly old woman" isn't living alone, but is secretly raising a deeply disturbed girl, Natalie (who is not only traumatized, but blind and mentally challenged as well). Luke begins hearing Natalie crying and also a childlike melody, even when he's far from her house. But as he gets involved in her life, he begins to unravel a shocking mystery about her and the woman she calls Nana. Music plays an important—and intriguing—role in the novel; not only does Luke play the piano to calm Natalie, but they both experience wonders such as hearing the trees singing, or seeing images formed by the sound of notes. The English village setting, its forest and the quirky characters (such as Luke's eccentric-but-wise music teacher) lend the novel a fairytale quality, where mystery feels possible. Unfortunately, too much plotting leaves little room for exploring the characters' complex relationships, causing their bonds with one another (and Mrs. Little's dramatic transformation) to seem disingenuous. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)

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