By Juliette Forrest
Published by Scholastic
ISBN 978 1 4071 8511 8
She was born during the worst storm in living memory. The wind howled, the thunder crashed, and the whirlwind twisted the trees like corkscrews. Ma and Pa and Aunt Honey agreed on one thing when she came into the world. They would christen her Twister, so Twister she became. Sometimes they just call her Twist for short.
And Twister certainly lives up to her wild name. She never stops still and never runs out of energy. Since her beloved father walked out on the family, Twist has had to do more than her fair share of work on the farm and has had no time for school work.
But she loves the countryside where she lives and most of the time she just gets on with what she has to do. But she does wish she knew why Pa disappeared.
Scottish author Juliette Forrest sets the tight action of Twister in the remote rural town of Culleroy in North America. Does the place actually exist? That doesn’t matter because, using the unique narrative voice of Twister herself, Forrest paints a clear picture of a remote community with its social strengths and weaknesses and the effect these have on the central character.
Forrest has assembled a diverse cast of hillbillies to push Twister through the story. There’s the kindly aunt, the depressed mother, the mean girls at school, the unfriendly neighbours, the obnoxious boy who is into casual violence.
When the locals start accusing her absent father of starting a fire that killed two people, Twister decides it’s time to act. She begins to search for clues that she hopes will lead her to her missing father. When she finds him, her family will once again become the caring unit it was before Pa walked out.
Twister is strong but innocent, and as she ventures into the woods to consult Maymay, a local magic woman, the reader develops a sense of dread that Twister is doing the wrong thing. Is there going to be an easy, happy-ever-after ending to Twister’s personal quest?
Not for one second does Twister believe that her pa didn’t have a good reason for walking out on the family. We fear for Twister as she delves deeper into a mystery that might be best left alone.
When magic enters the plot, Forrest is careful to keep it grounded in the carefully constructed story-line. Maymay gives Twister a magic necklace that holds the souls of living things and that could hold the key to locating her missing father.
But there’s a ruthless villain hunting for this ancient necklace. And why has it suddenly come into Twister’s possession? The shadowy woods around Culleroy have suddenly become a very dark and dangerous place.
Forrest packs a lot into her tale of a brave young lady faced with sinister, magical, and personal challenges. No-nonsense characters, magical woods, a fast moving plot, and an unusual central protagonist against a creepy villain all blend together to exciting effect in this quirky debut YA novel.
A book not to be missed if you like stories full of action and with just the right amount of jumps and scares.
John Millen can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org