Ingrid Law, Author . Dial/Walden Media $16.99 (342p) ISBN 978-0-8037-3306-0


Reviewed by Sarah Mlynowski

In Mississippi Beaumont's family, turning 13 means your savvy kicks in. When her grandfather turned 13, he created Idaho. And when her brother turned 13, he caused a hurricane. At the start of Law's winning debut novel, Mississippi's 13th birthday is only two days away.

With her dad in a coma after a horrible car accident, Mississippi is convinced that her savvy will have something to do with waking people up. Along with her brothers, the cute preacher's son and his obnoxious gum-chomping sister, she sneaks aboard a delivery bus she believes is heading toward her dad, hoping to save him.

The thing about Mississippi? She's not always right. Turns out, her savvy has her hearing a whole bunch of voices—in her head. When people around her have any type of ink—say, a tattoo or a pen mark—on their skin, she can't help but read their minds.

What makes this book so engaging is that aside from the whole mind-reading thing, Mississippi isn't extraordinary. She's not excessively brilliant, incredibly attractive or overly girly. She's afraid of growing up. She prefers to be called Mibs, but the mean girls call her Missy-Pissy. She wishes she could mess up less and be more like her perfect mom. (Literally, perfect—that's her mother's savvy.) Readers, boys and girls alike, will see a bit of themselves in Mibs.

Also, the Beaumonts aren't the only ones with savvys. Normal people (the bus driver, the hitchhiker, the obnoxious gum-chomper) have them, too—they just don't recognize them. As Mibs's mom says, “One person might make strawberry jam so good that no one can get enough of it.... There are even those folks who never get splashed by mud after a rainstorm or bit by a single mosquito in the summertime.” The 10-year-old boy or the 40-year-old mom reading the book—they might just have one, too.

Besides saving her dad, Mibs's quest in the novel is to learn to “scumble”—in other words, control her savvy. She has to learn to quiet the voices she hears, and to find her own voice.

Law has definitely found hers. Short chapters and cliffhangers keep the pace quick, while the mix of traditional language and vernacular helps the story feel both fresh and timeless. And while road-trip novels tend to be more about the journey than the destination, the ending, like Momma's savvy, is pretty perfect. I wasn't sure how Law was going to manage it without going all fairy-tale, but she does the story justice, making the conclusion happy and heart-rending simultaneously, resisting the urge to tie it all up with a fancy ribbon and a happily ever after.

Law's savvy? She's a natural storyteller who's created a vibrant and cinematic novel that readers are going to love. Ages 9-11. (May)

Sarah Mlynowski is the author of the Magic in Manhattan series, the most recent of which is Spells & Sleeping Bags (paperback reprint from Delacorte due this month), and, with E. Lockhart and Lauren Myracle, the coauthor of How to Be Bad (HarperTeen, May).

Reviewed on: 04/07/2008
Release date: 05/01/2008
Genre: Children's
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