Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge

Triss Crescent wakes up after being pulled from a pond, and there's something very wrong with her.  Her memories feel as if they are not her own, and it takes a few minutes for her to remember her mother and father at all.  And her younger sister, Pen, has an instant reaction upon seeing Triss - she screams that Triss is not Triss, and refuses to be near her.

At first, Triss chalks it up to the effects of the accident.  And Pen has always been difficult and resentful of the attention paid to Triss by their parents.  In fact, the family hasn't been the same since Sebastian, the oldest child, was killed in the Great War. But Triss is always so hungry - she eats and eats, even things, impossible things that aren't food at all.  And why does she keep finding bits of leaves and twigs in her room? And most terrifying of all, why do her dolls seem to come to life in her presence?

I can't say much more without giving spoilers.  Cuckoo Song is atmospheric and creepy, while giving us characters who you can't help rooting for, a historical setting and a mystery that is skillfully uncovered.  Unlike many teen books, the key relationship in this story is not romantic - it's between the sisters, and

While Cuckoo Song is cataloged as Teen, I can see it appealing to older youth readers - I would have loved it in 5th or 6th grade.   It is in the tradition of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere and similar books which present a world within our world.

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