In Werbitsky’s YA fantasy debut, a teenage boy who sees human auras must cope with persecution while investigating a young girl’s disappearance.
High school junior Calvin Hughes lives in West Shelby, a marshy town in Orleans County, New York. When Cal was 5, he had an encounter with a mysterious hooded figure by the local creek that left him with the ability to see colored energy clouds around people that reflect their emotions and often presage their behavior: “Before a person acted upon an idea or a feeling, it swirled in their energy field first.” Except his sister Eva, who’s now a high school senior, Cal has never told anyone of his ability, but his insights have nonetheless made him an outsider. The one person who isn’t leery of him is classmate Star McClellan, a rebel whose skull-shaped earrings belie an angelic energy cloud. Cal likes Star, and she likes him, but Star has her own secret: She sees visions of the future, including one that shows Cal drowning while trying to save her life. Determined to avoid this outcome, she pushes Cal away. Cal, however, is determined to help Star by uncovering the truth behind her 4-year-old sister’s disappearance. Werbitsky’s prose and dialogue create an eerie sense of dislocation and show the everyday vicissitudes of teenage life both inside and outside school. Cal’s and Eva’s characterizations are particularly refreshing; Cal, for instance, is never at peace with his ability, and for a self-defeating stretch midway through the book, he leaps at the chance to be “normal” and becomes rather unlikable in the process. Eva is not the ally one might expect but rather a force of active antagonism; yet for all her sibling jealousy, she eventually proves uncommonly reasonable. The story moves at a good pace, fueled by teenage travails and supernatural developments; the latter are left unresolved, and although this makes for a less than satisfying conclusion if the book is judged as a stand-alone, it makes the prospect of a sequel appealing.
An often poetic exploration of the good and evil in everyday teenage life, enhanced by offbeat characters.