cover image Calling the Swan

Calling the Swan

Jean Thesman. Viking Children's Books, $15.99 (208pp) ISBN 978-0-670-88874-0

Skylar, 15, plans to spend the summer taking a sophomore English course in a high school across town. The intense anxiety Skylar and her mother experience at the prospect of this relatively simple commute is an early clue that some unspeakable incident has traumatized their family. Skylar's older sister, Alexandra, offers encouragement, but only to a degree, warning Skylar not to trust anyone too quickly, and something about the sisters' relationship doesn't seem quite right. Deftly interwoven with the wrenching story of Skylar's struggles to grow and heal are the activities of normal teenage life: making new friends, expanding past familiar territory and approaching a possible romantic relationship. Refreshingly, English classDfilled with thought-provoking discussions and taught by the ladylike yet steely Mrs. VargasDis never merely a convenient backdrop to Skylar's inner drama. Instead, it is a vivid place all on its own, peopled with a lively and likable crew of students. Thanks to Thesman's (The Other Ones) expert control, the reader's grasp of the exact nature of Skylar's tragedy develops in parallel to Skylar's own ability to articulate what has happenedDthree years ago Alexandra was abducted in a never-solved crime, and Skylar's own family has gone from being the object of sympathy to the subject of neighborhood gossip and suspicion. Hopeful without being sugar-coated, this tale offers compassionate insight into loss. Ages 10-14. (June)