cover image A Single Stone

A Single Stone

Meg McKinlay. Candlewick, $17.99 (272p) ISBN 978-0-7636-8837-0

This gripping story, first published in Australia, unearths the sinister underpinnings of an isolated matriarchal society. A catastrophic event known as “Rockfall” created a sealed community ruled by “the Mothers” and dependent on the harvest of mica to survive the winters. Jena, a steely 14-year-old, holds elevated status as the gifted leader of the line of tiny girls who tunnel into the rock’s crevices to locate the precious mineral. The claustrophobia inherent in this walled-off world is further heightened as Jena awakens to the gruesome practices that the Mothers employ to breed ever more waiflike miners, including those that are already out in the open (“In the mountain, in the dark, it didn’t matter what you looked like. It didn’t matter whether you had been more into your smallness or helped along by the knife, by the careful breaking and compression of your bones”). McKinlay (Below) believably evokes the dangers inherent in Jena’s burgeoning autonomous thoughts and actions in a tightly controlled dystopian environment where her grace and power ultimately prevail. Ages 10–up. (Mar.)