The Wide Starlight
Sixteen-year-old Eline Davis knows it's true. She was there ten years ago, on a frozen fjord in Svalbard, Norway, the night her mother whistled at the lights and then vanished.
Now, Eli lives an ordinary life with her dad on Cape Cod. But when the Northern Lights are visible over the Cape for just one night, she can't resist the possibility of seeing her mother again. So she whistles--and it works. Her mother appears, with snowy hair, frosty fingertips and a hazy story of where she's been all these years. And she doesn't return alone.
Along with Eli's mother's reappearance come strange, impossible things. Narwhals swimming in Cape Cod Bay, meteorites landing in Eli's yard, and three shadowy princesses with ominous messages. It's all too much, too fast, and Eli pushes her mother away. She disappears again--but this time, she leaves behind a note that will send Eli on a journey across continents, to the northern tip of the world:
Find me where I left you.
What worked: Intriguing fantasy based loosely on Norwegian folk tales. Lesperance's lyrical writing shows magic mixed with fairy tales. Eli's sense of abandonment is strong. She can't get over her mother's desertion. Then when she finds out her best friend plans to attend college a year early and leave her too, it's almost too much.
The magical realism is woven throughout this story. Eli's mother is a shadow of her former self. There's hints of mental illness on what might have driven her mother to leave Eli on a frozen fjord ten years previously.
Poetic writing which is heart-wrenching at times with the complexity of mother and daughter relationships.
I admit, I got confused more than a few times, especially when the contempory parts of the story switch to the fairy tales. It was hard to understand what was real and what wasn't. Underlining this fantasy story is a dark current that Eli's mother probably suffered from. It's mentioned by Eli's father that he wished her mother had continued with therapy and that she struggles with deep bouts of what I assumed was depression.
Haunting contemporary fantasy where a girl's yearning to find her mother leads her to make peace with a magical presence that doesn't want to let her go.
2. Magical realism