Trickster's Girl

( 10 )

Overview

In the year 2098 America isn't so different from the USA of today. But, in a post-9/11 security-obssessed world, "secured" doesn't just refer to borders between countries, it also refer to borders between states. Teenagers still think they know everything, but there is no cure for cancer, as Kelsa knows first-hand from watching her father die.
 
The night Kelsa ...

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Overview

In the year 2098 America isn't so different from the USA of today. But, in a post-9/11 security-obssessed world, "secured" doesn't just refer to borders between countries, it also refer to borders between states. Teenagers still think they know everything, but there is no cure for cancer, as Kelsa knows first-hand from watching her father die.
 
The night Kelsa buries her father, a boy appears. He claims magic is responsible for the health of Earth, but  human damage disrupts its flow. The planet is dying.
 
Kelsa has the power to reverse the damage, but first she must accept that magic exists and see beyond her own pain in order to heal the planet.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this disappointing science fiction/fantasy hybrid set at the end of the 21st century, humanity, after years of environmental malfeasance, has finally taken steps to clean up the planet. Unfortunately, from massive forest die-offs to increasing cancer rates, there is ample evidence that it's too late. Fifteen-year-old Kelsa, deeply depressed after recently losing her father to cancer, steals his ashes, intent on burying them in the wilderness. There she is accosted by a beautiful young man named Raven, who tells her, "I've been looking for you for a long time." Raven, it seems, is actually the trickster figure of Native American mythology, and he has chosen Kelsa to help him reverse Earth's ecological collapse. Of course, while recruiting her, he neglects to mention that most of his fellow supernatural beings are actively, even violently, opposed to his plan, preferring to allow humanity to die off. Bell (the Farsala trilogy) is a veteran writer, but this tale fails to generate much tension, and her cartoonish biker villains simply aren't very scary. Ages 12–up. (Jan.)
From the Publisher
"Plot drives this book from the start to the rousing climax and surprise resolution. Humor will engage readers' interest while the ever-increasing suspense will keep it."—Kirkus Reviews

"The ecological theme and the trendy device of investing a teen with superpowers will doubtless please the author's many fans."—Booklist

"Will sit especially well with readers who prefer their speculative fiction to be character-driven, and they'll appreciate the compelling exploration of the ways the hopeful can cope with uncertainty."—The Bulletin

"Characterization sparkles."—VOYA

Children's Literature - Cara Chancellor
Kelsa Phillips is only fifteen, but since her father recently died of cancer, she has felt much older—older, and angrier. He was the only one who understood her, who took her to see "churches God made" in the mountains and forests, instead of the manmade structures to which her mother is so committed. Kelsa knew her father would want his ashes buried outside, which is why she took them from his urn and snuck out at night to their favorite park. That is where she met Raven; beautiful, strange Raven, who looks her age but claims to be the Native American trickster spirit of lore...and who needs her help. According to Raven, the magical leys of the world have been weakened by human activity. If their flow is not restored, the "tree plague" that has deforested South America will spread, and even humans will fall ill. The connection between the corrupted leys and her father's death is not lost on Kelsa. Desperate to escape her grief, she agrees to accompany Raven. She soon discovers, however, that he is not the only spirit interested in Earth magic, and not all of them are on her side. What makes Bell's story so unique is not its magic or even Raven, although he provides a nice foil to Kelsa. Instead, it is her futuristic world, in which humans undergo DNA scans at state borders and "com pads" record every move. Bell functions as easily amidst this technology as if she—like Kelsa—was born into it, and few parts of the book are as entertaining as watching her characters circumvent the system. Despite the fact that many readers will find this "human magic" more interesting than Raven's variety, Bell's moral of unintended consequences and the importance of nature remains clear. Reviewer: Cara Chancellor
VOYA - Florence Munat
In 2094, the earth is slowly recovering from decades of poor human stewardship. Glaciers are advancing, and sea levels are dropping, but a tree plague begun in the Amazon rainforest is moving northward. Cancer deaths are growing at an alarming rate, and no one knows why. Fifteen-year-old Kelsa Phillips's beloved father, a biochemistry professor who had studied the plague in the Amazon, succumbs to an aggressive cancer. While clandestinely burying his ashes in a wild spot near their Utah home, Kelsa encounters a strange, black-haired boy. She runs from him, but he keeps reappearing, imploring her to help him heal the earth. After witnessing him shapeshift from a boy to a silver fish and then to the North American trickster spirit, Raven, Kelsa reluctantly joins his quest. She agrees to steal a nineteenth-century Navajo shaman's magic pouch of dust and pollen from the university museum. Then, with Raven riding behind, she drives her motorbike on back roads to wherever he directs and sprinkles healing dust on places where natural and magical energies travel through the earth. Because humans committed the damage, humans must repair it. Raven has enemies in the spirit world, and they—along with human enemies—create dangers as the twosome travels through Canada toward Alaska to complete the shaman's journey. The high-tech, security-conscious world makes their journey even more challenging. Characterization sparkles as Raven is portrayed as a smug, condescending spirit whose attitude conflicts with Kelsa's independence and integrity. Descriptions of the Canadian wilderness enhance the story. Kelsa's journey to save the planet becomes a means of memorializing her father's teachings, but equally important is her ultimate reconciliation with her once-distant, grief-stricken mother. Reviewer: Florence Munat
School Library Journal
Gr 6–10—In this story set 100 years in the future, Kelsa, 15, is still reeling from the death of her father when she is approached by a strange, shape-shifting creature. He claims that he is Raven, the trickster from Native American mythology, and he needs her help to save the world. A biological plague is slowly killing all the trees on Earth, and they are unable to fight it because the leys, "underground currents of natural and magical energy running through the surface of the world," are damaged. Due to humans' misuse of the planet, the nexus points along the leys have become sluggish and, as a result, their very existence is threatened. Since humans created the problem, they have to fix it, which is why Raven approached Kelsa. Reluctantly, she agrees to help, but not all of the mythological world wants them to succeed. Many think the situation would be improved if humans no longer existed, and several forces try to stop Kelsa and Raven on their quest. In this plot (with its Avatar undercurrents), there are times when the magic performed by Raven seems to be a useful tool to progress the plot and not entirely believable within the context of the novel. However Bell adeptly explores the relationship between Kelsa and Raven. At first stormy and volatile, it slowly develops into a friendship based on trust. A satisfying conclusion is reached when what began as a journey to heal the Earth ends as a healing journey for Kelsa and her family.—Ragan O'Malley, Saint Ann's School, Brooklyn, NY
Kirkus Reviews

At her father's funeral during a sweltering Utah summer in the not-so-distant future, Kelsa Phillips rages against her mother, the funeral and her father's dying in a hospice. So when she meets a shape-shifter named Raven, she (rashly) accompanies him on a road trip through Canada to release knots in the magical veins of energy under the earth to save the world from eco-disaster. But this is a different United States from ours: The authorities have put in place a grid system of movement control in which theonly people who can move from state to state are those with valid identification cards. The pair joust with each other, neither trusting the other with vital information even as disaster looms. Plot drives this book from the start to the rousing climax and surprise resolution. Humor will engage readers' interest while the ever-increasing suspense will keep it. The worldbuilding is scant; it's a pity Bell didn't incorporate more detail about the future United States to make it more convincing. Enough threads are left dangling at the end to ensure a sequel (Traitor's Boy, scheduled for spring 2012), so perhaps it will be fleshed out there. (Fantasy. 13-16)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780547196206
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 1/3/2011
  • Pages: 281
  • Sales rank: 1,007,473
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: 850L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Hilari Bell is the author of many science fiction and fantasy novels for children and teens. She lives in Denver, Colorado.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

"Friends, we are gathered here to commemorate not the death of Jonathan Peter Phillips, but his life."

They even got the name wrong.

Though given how much else was wrong, Kelsa supposed she shouldn’t complain about that. It was the name on her father’s birth certificate. And his life did deserve celebration. She pushed her bangs off her sweaty forehead, wishing that the tempcontrol in her formal jacket worked better. At least she’d been able to braid her long, frizzy hair off the back of her neck. Her mother’s stylish cut, the same kind of haircut she’d so often tried to talk Kelsa into, clung damply to her neck under the hot late- May sun.

Kelsa’s mother had insisted on having the formal service at graveside—even though no one was actually buried anymore and as per the cemetery contract, the urn would sit on its granite pedestal for only sixty years. Her father wasn’t there, so it probably didn’t matter that his life was being recounted by a minister who might not even have met him.

It should have been a gathering of his friends, telling stories about the times her father had helped them or made them laugh. About his passion for the living earth he’d studied and taught. About the time he’d taken his nine-year-old daughter on a hike up a desert canyon to a hidden waterfall, where butterflies danced between the shining curtains.

The memory glowed, jewel bright. So many memories. Fifteen years of them. It wasn’t enough.

Oh, Pop.

Kelsa had vowed to get through this without crying, but the tears welled up anyway. Her mother had been crying quietly since the service began, Joby sitting in her lap, even though his five-year-old body must have been both heavy and hot.

". . . the many years he taught biochemistry at the University of Northern Utah," the minister droned.

Kelsa blinked hard and sniffed. This wasn’t her father’s real funeral, and she’d cried an ocean over the last few months. She was tired of grief, tired of the whole damned mess. The simple facts the minister recited, graduated from, worked as a park ranger, met his wife in, didn’t begin to encompass the reality of her father’s life. Any more than the graceful black granite urn held his real ashes.

Kelsa lowered her gaze, hiding a fierce smile that no one would have understood.

*****

Eventually the service ended, with a modern blessing on her father’s soul and all those he had loved. No words of ashes and dust; very little about death at all. Death wasn’t fashionable. Kelsa had to admit that it was the ultimate grind, but when someone died you really ought to talk about the "dead" part. The minister had done his best, she supposed, given that the man he was eulogizing had never set foot in a church in his life.

"I like the churches God made better," he’d told Kelsa one autumn afternoon, gesturing to the towering peaks around them, the sweep of meadow and sky.

But none of this was the minister’s fault, so Kelsa shook the man’s hand and accepted his condolences with a polite mumble of thanks. He wasn’t sweating, which either meant there really were miracles or the tempcontrol in his black coat worked better than hers.

Her mother was sweating, and she was so pale that despite the thorny wall of her anger Kelsa felt a flash of concern.

The minister must have shared it. He picked up Joby, handed him over to Kelsa, and had her mother separated from the crowd and headed toward the waiting cars of the funeral cortege in short order.

Their car had a driver supplied by the mortuary, which was just as well. Kelsa wasn’t sure her mother was up to driving.

As soon as they were aboard, the repulsers lifted the car off the pavement and the chiller kicked on, ruffling Kelsa’s damp bangs with a burst of cool air.

"Thank God that’s over," her mother murmured, sinking back in her seat.

Kelsa was suddenly furious all over again. You were saying goodbye to your husband! How can you be glad it’s over?

But they’d both been saying goodbye throughout the last four horrible months, ever since the doctor pronounced her father’s cancer too far advanced for even modern medicine to cure. And Kelsa knew her mother had loved her father.

She just hadn’t loved him enough.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3
( 10 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 1, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Follow Raven and Kelsa's journey

    On the same day that Kelsa buries her father, she encounters a strange boy named Raven. Raven is a shapeshifting spirit who needs her help. The earth is suffering from a deadly tree virus and can only be healed by a human with special magic. Kelsa is not sure she is the right person for the job, but agrees to go with him because staying home with her depressed mother doesn't sound any better. So Kelsa and Raven set out on a long road trip, complete with amazing sights, an angry biker gang, and a little self-discovery.

    At the start, this book was good. It captured my interest and introduced me to the poor, hurting Kelsa. I liked the mostly average world, with innovative bits such as floating cars and com pods subtly thrown in. Surprisingly futuristic and yet very understated. Kelsa had a tricky relationship with her mom that most teen girls will be able to identify with. However, as the novel went on, the plot became rather tedious. There were magical elements added that didn't make any sense and yet Kelsa was perfectly accepting of them and seemed to know exactly what to do. The long chapters created little time to relax from being chased and made for a tiresome read. And Raven's constant bashing of humans killing the earth felt too preachy to be enjoyable. I would have been willing to overlook some of the hard-pressed message if there was something redeemable in Raven, like a love interest. But there was none. This may make reader's turn away from the story early, but those who read to the end will find an exciting, action-packed ending.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 3, 2011

    Fantastic Read

    Have you ever read the old Indian folktales about the animal spirits that ruled the world in the beginning? Many of them had god-like powers and influenced how nature worked here on earth. But did you know they were also shape-shifters?

    Kelsa's father has just died from cancer and she's grieving and unhappy with her mother's choice of treatment and the proposed funeral. She and her father loved the outdoors and did a lot of hiking together. Who would go with her now, and would it be as much fun as it used to be?

    Rebelling against the funeral her mother has planned, she steals her father's ashes and doesn't let Mom know. She attends the funeral, then sneaks out at night to bury her father's ashes under a big cottonwood tree they both loved.

    That's where she meets this strange, attractive young man who says he needs her in his quest to try to save the world. She tells him no and refuses to listen to him. So he shows her "magic" and changes into a raven! She runs home and tries to forget him. But he won't go away.

    She finally decides to listen to him and convinces her Mom to let her go stay with her aunt for a couple of weeks. She acts as those she is going on the trip, then sneaks off and meets up with Raven to start the quest.

    Magic, wickedness and evil abound in this book. It is a rapidly paced novel that includes some Indian folklore and a bio-hazard that is futuristic. Kelsa is a strong, determined character who does what she sets out to do. Raven is other worldly. The forces they meet test them both and keep you glued to reading the book.

    There will be at least one more book in this series, perhaps more. It was enjoyable and I look forward to seeing how Ms. Bell untangles this plot over time.

    Originally posted at The Long and Short of It Romance Reviews

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  • Posted December 29, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Trickster's Girl (The Raven Duet, #1)

    Trickster's Girl is an easy read but I'm afraid it's more simple then I prefer but suitable for the age demographic. ****************** The plot is carefully put together. The conflict with the main character, Kelsa, was easily felt and written to reach its reader. Most notable, Kelsa's character possesses admirable qualities. Her determination to complete what she's started is my most favorite attribute. A plight to save humankind with just a few hundred dollars to her name and a lying shapeshifter as a partner is a brilliant premise but overall I there was something missing. ****************** The journey Kelsa and Raven set out on from her home in Utah to Alaska is quite the excitement for a teenage girl but she holds her own well. The world in which this plot takes place is interesting. There are Levcars that hoover above ground, cameras that survey public areas, com boards, plastic guns, DNA locks, DNA coded guns but it's not total sci-fi just advanced. The year is 2093/94. There is magic and there is technology. After all the waste that has occurred in the human world both it and the magic world (co-existing with Earth) is in trouble. Raven sets out to find a human who can help heal the magic leys that enables life on Earth and in the Magic world. That is when Raven finds Kelsa. ****************** Mostly, Trickster's Girl is a fair read. My curiosity had me reading on wondering what's going to happen next but I think it was the ending that had me stumped. It was a bit abrupt. The epilogue was even more confusing. I don't wish to give anything away but it doesn't feel like the plot is complete. Only now, I am looking up information on the Author's site. It seems that this book is a duet. There will be two in the series or better worded a duet. So now I am thinking the ending must be like a "to be continued..." which would explained but I felt the ending was abrupt. It's just a guess upon my opinion from the ending though. ****************** All in all, this book would be great for the intended audience of 12+. Will I read book 2 in this duet? Yes, I am thinking I will. There is enough to the plot to have me curious despite its abrupt ending. Plus, the idea of a duet is new to me and that in itself is interesting.

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  • Posted December 9, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Not quite for me

    This book held a lot of promise and is based on an interesting concept, but I didn't feel that it delivered to its fullest potential. For one, it seemed to be put forth as a romance, and who doesn't love some kind of supernatural romance, right? But there is actually no hint of romance taking place between Raven and Kelsa. that I can see. They are partners in their quest, but a romantic interest in each other is never alluded to. They are two separate beings that do not understand each other at all and don't seem to really want to.

    The actual quest that they undertake - to heal the magical ley lines destroyed by humans ' treatment of the environment - is quite interesting at times. As they travel, they use Raven's powers to escape from his enemies who are trying to stop them from healing the lines because they believe that the humans deserve for their dimension to be destroyed since their polluting ways have caused the damage.

    I have no problem with focusing on environmental restoration, but sometimes I feel that this book delves over into being preachy about cleaning up the environment rather than about telling a simple story that grabbed the reader's attention. The quest is very episodic with not a lot of character development taking place. To me, the ending was very abrupt with little to no resolution and little assurance that Kelsa and Raven will even be together in the next episode of this journey. For these reasons, this book just didn't click with me.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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