Cuckoo Song

416p. Abrams/Amulet. May 2015. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781419714801.
RedReviewStarGr 5 Up—Ever since her older brother died in World War I, things have been tense for Triss and her family. After Triss suffers a horrible accident, her memory is hindered and all of a sudden she feels a strange, insatiable hunger that can only be calmed by digesting unusual items. From here, events proceed in an unexpected way as magical promises are made, relationships are tested, and characters question what it means to be alive. Mysterious letters and dangerous strangers create a mood of suspicion and paranoia as pieces of the story fall into place at just the right moment. Many secondary characters make understandable but regrettable mistakes throughout, cementing themselves as realistic and complex individuals. The beautiful writing is full of rich language that is reminiscent of an old fairy tale. Fans of Hardinge will not be disappointed in this latest spine-chilling, creative work that offers a nuanced depiction of grief within the structure of a well-wrought fantasy.—Carrie Shaurette, Dwight-Englewood School, Englewood, NJ
Eleven-year-old Triss Crescent wakes up confused after a terrifying accident. Her memories don't feel like her own, and ravenous hunger devours all self-control. Seeking the explanation for her bizarre circumstances, Triss (with little sister Pen) uncovers a grotesque magical world existing in the shadows of her own 1920s town. This sophisticated, disturbing tale shivers with suspense and touching moments of bravery.
Eleven-year-old Triss Crescent wakes up confused after a terrifying accident. Her memories don’t feel like her own; she hears a voice like dry leaves; and a ravenous hunger devours all self-control. Mysteries quickly darken further, with whispers about secret enemies and a missing-presumed-dead brother; meanwhile, dolls come eerily to life, and Triss’s spiteful little sister Pen seems to know what is going on. Though the sisters have been at odds for years, mutual trust will be the only way to set things right. As Triss tracks down the sinister explanation for her bizarre circumstances, her sheltered life turns into an adventure through a grotesque magical world, one that exists in the shadows of her own, vividly evoked, 1920s town. Hardinge (Fly by Night; The Lost Conspiracy, rev. 9/09) writes with a comfortable command of changeling-child story traditions, twisting them into her own darkly imaginative contribution to the genre. Breathless chases and tense foreboding drive the plot toward a harrowing climax, in which mortality and magic contend spectacularly. Hardinge is equally adept at capturing family dynamics; even during the most fantastical occurrences, the Crescent family’s strained interactions are realistically nuanced. Cuckoo Song is a sophisticated, disturbing tale that shivers with suspense and touching moments of bravery. sarah berman

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