lush story of imagination and friendship
THE ICE GARDEN follows Jess, a 12-year-old with extreme photosensitivity, which means she cannot go out safely during the day. If she spends even a minute or two in the sunlight unprotected, she will get extremely bad burns and blisters on the exposed skin. As such, her world is mostly indoors with strong curtains. If she must go out, such as to the doctor, she goes “Full Hat,” which is described as looking like a bee keeper suit. She is also isolated, since “friends” in the past have been cruel to her for being different.
Jess writes beautiful stories, and she dreams of being normal. While she is at the hospital to treat a sliver of skin that was exposed for a few minutes, she finds her way to the room of a boy who is in a coma. She learns that his name is Davey, and she tells him stories. At the same time, she is leaving her house at night to be able to be out without going full hat. She traveled to the playground where she found an entrance to a world without sun, made out of ice. In this world, she meets Owen, a boy made of ice, who becomes her friend.
She continues to visit both the ice world at night and Davey when she is at the hospital without her mother knowing. When Owen gives her a gift that she puts in her freezer, she finds that her condition is gone and she can be out in the sunlight. However, there is a cost to the gift of which she was not aware. Jess must begin to make some big decisions about her life and that of the others for whom she has come to care.
What I loved: The descriptions in this book are lush, and the world and people leap off the pages. The plot moves quickly, and the fast pace makes it difficult to put this book down. With beautiful imagery and unique characters, this is a delightful read. The friendships and hardships make this story truly heart-warming. Notably, the book also includes themes about embracing who you are and loving yourself as you are.
Final verdict: This lovely middle grade book features a young girl with a big imagination and lots of heart that will appeal to the target audience. With elements of magical realism and beautifully written prose, this is a heart-warming and absolutely charming book about friendship, helping others, and embracing yourself. Highly recommend for anyone looking for a lush fantasy/magical realism story.