cover image The Tricksters

The Tricksters

Margaret Mahy. Margaret K. McElderry Books, $16 (266pp) ISBN 978-0-689-50400-6

With the appearance of this haunting, intriguing novel, Mahy (twice a winner of the Carnegie Medal) has written perhaps her best work yet. It begins as a family Christmas story, with Jack and Naomi Hamilton, their five children and assorted guests arriving at their summer home, Carnival's Hide, on the beach in New Zealandfor Christmas is also midsummer. Although Jack and Naomi still love each other, their marriage has been shaken by a past, unmentioned crisis, duly noted by daughter Harry, who at 17 is the family observer. Harry is obsessed with her creation of a torrid, romantic novel. When her obsession collides with the family fascination with the ghost of Teddy Carnival (the young son of the house's first owner, who drowned in an apparent suicide), the supernatural explodes into reality, as three brothersthe Tricksterstake human form. Harry recognizes her own book characters in the brothers, and is determined to keep them from destroying her family. Ultimately, the supernatural and reality merge in one dreadful moment, and it is Harryin her transformation into her real self, Ariadnewho shatters all of the family's illusions. Mahy has combined stunning visuals with intelligent, very accessible characters. The supernatural presence of the Tricksters becomes a maze through which Harry, her family and, finally, the reader, must travel in order to unravel the novel's mysteries. A searing depiction of an entire family's rite of passage, The Tricksters is one of the most intellectually challenging novels written for teenagers in years. (14-up)