Reviewed February 27, 2014.
Viking, 2013. 288 pages.
2014 Sonderbooks Standout: #3 Teen Fiction
I read this book simply because it’s in School Library Journal’s Battle of the Books, which commences March 10. I’m not sure what I expected, since I hadn’t heard much about it, but I was blown away and kept reading well into the night.
This is a rare book that’s written in second person voice, addressed to “you.” But the speaker is not addressing the reader. It soon becomes clear that she’s addressing the young man she loves.
Here’s how the book begins, with the heading “Before”:
We came here by ship, you and I.
I was a baby on my mother’s knee, and you were a lisping, curly-headed boy playing at your mother’s feet all through that weary voyage.
Watching us, our mothers got on so well together that our fathers chose adjacent farm plots a mile from town, on the western fringe of a Roswell Station that was much smaller then.
I remember my mother telling tales of the trip when I was young. Now she never speaks of it at all.
She said I spent the whole trip wide-eyed, watching you.
She still watches him. She remembers when he smiled at her, gave her posies. But something terrible happened, and now the whole village barely notices she is there.
We get bits of what happened, all along the way. We find out why she doesn’t speak. She was gone for two years. When she came back, she was out of her head, left for dead, with half her tongue cut out.
Then ships are sighted off the shore, coming toward the town. The Homelanders are bringing war to them, wanting their fertile farms. All the men of the town must fight, even though their arsenal was destroyed, even though they are doomed.
But Judith knows where to find help – only she must confront her own nightmares.
And after she does so, everything changes.
This book is marvelously constructed, revealing bits of the past at a natural pace, as it comes up in the present, finally with mysteries solved at the very end. I find myself wanting to read it all over again, knowing now how it all fits together.
And ultimately, it’s a love story. And a story of healing. And a story of courage. And a story of a wounded girl finding her voice.