From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 8 Up—Rebellious and resentful Bobby, 14, is ripped from his world of drugs and theft in Dublin and forced to move to a seemingly sleepy farm community. After stealing and demolishing a car that belonged to a man who inexplicably disappeared, he is required by the simple, very human Dooley family, from whom his mother is renting a house, to make amends in the form of farm labor. At home, his mother is too worn out and irresponsible to care about her son's indiscretions unless they impact her directly. And they both ignore four-year-old Dennis when he talks about his new nighttime friend, "a little woman." Bobby makes grand plans to escape the farm and the Dooleys' imposed servitude for the wild nights of Dublin. But when his city friends sell him out and he is left wandering the streets alone, the honesty and integrity of sore muscles and a hard day's work become more appealing. Bobby is a powerful character, hard and devoid of feeling, initially, due to the harshness of his own reality. His transformation is empowering, however, and the Dooleys demonstrate how the smallest pat on the back can change the course of an entire life. This novel will draw in reluctant readers with the mysterious supernatural element as well as the mayhem and defiance. Once hooked, they will be moved by the way that Bobby reassesses his expectations for himself due to the kindness and mentoring of a neighbor.—Kat Redniss, Brownell Library, Essex Junction, VT
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*Starred Review* Though not as overtly as she did in The New Policeman (2007) and its sequel, The Last of the High Kings (2008), Thompson again pits contemporary Irish rural life against an undercurrent of faerie mystery. Hoping to pry 14-year-old Bobby away from his Dublin life of reckless violence, drug abuse, and grand theft, Bobby’s welfare-dependent mother transplants the family to a creaky old house in the countryside. Balancing the grittiness of Bobby’s angst and relentless fights with his mother are the whispered stories of the house’s previous occupants, a couple who murdered their child, believing her to be a faerie changeling. Thompson weaves this lightly into the plot, and it’s easy to get so caught up in the reckless joyride of Bobby’s juvenile delinquency and subsequent rural makeover (a believable process of baby steps and serious lapses) that the creepy undercurrent fades away. But never entirely, as an unseen visitor who comes in the middle of the night continues to worry at the edges of Bobby’s consciousness. The story ends on a somewhat abrupt note that might disappoint some, but for thoughtful readers it will rearrange what the entire story’s proceedings have really been about. A unique blend of subtlety and brashness, this is an honest coming-of-age novel in the guise of a gripping YA thriller. Grades 9-12. --Ian Chipman
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