Published in Issue 25 of Visionary Tongue, Winter 2008.

Perhaps I am a magpie at heart… I couldn’t help picking up this book at Sarah’s reading of it at Eastercon earlier this year, just to look at it. It has one of those covers that entices you with richness and sparkle and it is only after staring at it a while that you can see small hints at something sinister in the doodled design. It is a design that aptly matches the text.

The story’s protagonist is Amber. Bored and hanging around in the summer holidays, she first meets Dowdie, an outspoken girl who lives with her mother in a commune led by the mysterious and charismatic James Renault. Amber is fascinated by Dowdie’s way of life, but also keen to show her new friend that she is not someone to be pigeon-holed. She also meets Johnny, an older boy with an artistic bent and nihilistic attitude. His cynicism provides the anchor she needs when the charming Renault tries to convince her she is one of the special Amethyst Children and draw her into his cult. The three teenagers are made vulnerable by their struggles with their sense of belonging, and darkness lies ahead.

This is a fantastic read for older children, and older readers will also appreciate the subtlety with which Sarah carves these complex and convincing teenage characters. The only drawback, from the point of view of an adult reader, is that the plot is kept simple for its target readership. It would be wonderful if Sarah did write something for the grown-ups, but I wouldn’t want to rob her young readers of the opportunity to read her skilful and lyrical prose.

Simon and Schuster, 2008, ISBN: 978-1-41692-591-0

Review by Donna Scott