cover image Strange Objects

Strange Objects

Gary Crew. Simon & Schuster, $15 (216pp) ISBN 978-0-671-79759-1

Winner of Australia's 1991 Children's Book of the Year award, this stunningly original work defies easy categorization as it spins dual story lines into one spellbinding yarn. Crew brings to life the land and peoples of the desert shores of Western Australia, a setting that will prove exotic to most Americans. He starts his novel with a bang: a note from an archeologist introduces documents she's been sent by a recently vanished 16-year-old named Steven Messenger, who had gained some notoriety when he'd found a cast-iron pot containing a 17th-century Dutchman's journal and a mummified human hand bearing a now-missing ring. The journal tells the story of Wouter Loos, a sailor accused of barbarous crimes and cast upon the ocean along with a teenage killer; Crew unfolds Loos's narrative with Messenger's as a seamless and unpredictable blend of mystery, history, anthropology and science fiction. The first of many shocks is in store when Messenger turns out to be not the typical YA nice-guy teen protagonist, but the reincarnation (or the extraterrestrial clone?) of the supernatural psychopath who so chillingly dominates Loos's diary. Crew tantalizes to the very end, leaving readers to speculate enthusiastically on the riddles he craftily leaves unsolved. His tale will electrify his audience. Ages 10-14. (May)