Moss has grown up on a magical island with Pa, his stories, and their dogs. The island is filled with flowers that Pa believes relieve him of his sickness--the blackness that sometimes overtakes him and leaves him lying in bed for days at a time.
Eventually others come to the island--a horse that seems to be spawned from a storm that was presumably called by Pa using the flowers, and a fish-boy who washes up on shore during that same storm. Aster, the horse, and Cal, the boy, are the companions that Pa and Moss have been hoping for, and their little island becomes a little more complex with their arrival. Years pass, and just as Moss is becoming a full-fledged teenage girl, and just as she and Cal begin to look at each other as more than friends, two more boys are washed ashore. Their arrival, doubts that were previously raised by Cal, and her own observations lead Moss to question everything she was raised to believe about Pa, the flowers, the island, and the world beyond.
STORM-WAKE by Lucy Christopher is a perplexing, lyrical, haunting book that left me equally confused and entranced. The flowers that Pa ingests, smokes, and distils are obviously hallucinogenic, but they seem to have real magical and healing properties, too. Cal is a mystery--how the heck did he end up on shore? Was it really magic? Is he truly part fish? And what about the horse? Where did that come from?! Moss is the most grounded of the characters, but she's so confused she couldn't help me fully grasp what's real, what's magic, what's drug-induced, and which of the characters--if any--are reliable.
The writing in STORM-WAKE is beautiful. Lucy Christopher takes a five-year-old's vocabulary and strings words together to convey complicated and mature thoughts. It's a nice way of looking at things, even while it serves to keep everything fuzzy and dream-like. I often felt that I had been partaking of the island's flowers while trying to sort out the story.
I'll be thinking about STORM-WAKE for a while. It's a coming-of-age story, it's magical realism, it's a retelling of THE TEMPEST, and it's often bewildering. I recommend it for the conversations it will start as you try to explain it to others.
My thanks to the publisher and YA Books Central for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.