A dying girl gives a boy the strength to live in this lyrical novel that will break your heart and lift your spirit
Peter Stone’s parents and siblings are extroverts, musicians, and yellers—and the louder they get, the less Peter talks, or even moves, until he practically fits his last name. When his family moves to the Texas Hill Country, though, Peter finds a tranquil, natural valley where he can, at last, hear himself think.
There, he meets a girl his age: Annie Blythe. Annie tells Peter she’s a “wish girl.” But Annie isn’t just any wish girl; she’s a “Make-A-Wish Girl.” And in two weeks she will begin a dangerous treatment to try and stop her cancer from spreading. Left alone, the disease will kill her. But the treatment may cause serious, lasting damage to her brain.
Annie and Peter hatch a plan to escape into the valley, which they begin to think is magical. But the pair soon discovers that the valley—and life—may have other plans for them. And sometimes wishes come true in ways they would never expect.
About the Author
Nikki Loftin lives and writes just outside Austin, Texas, surrounded by dogs, chickens, and small, loud boys. She is also the author of the multiply starred-reviewed Nightingale's Nest and The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy, which Publishers Weekly called “mesmerizing” and Kirkus called “irresistible." You can visit her online at www.nikkiloftin.com or on Twitter @NikkiLoftin.
Read an Excerpt
The summer before I turned thirteen, I held so still it almost killed me.
I’d always been quiet. I’d even practiced it: holding my breath, holding even my thoughts still. It was the one thing I could do better than anyone else, but I guess it made me seem weird. I got tired of my family saying, “What’s wrong with Peter?”
There was a lot wrong with me. But at that moment the most serious thing was the rattlesnake on my feet.
I’d just run away from home for the first time. Possibly the last time, too, I thought, staring down at the ground, blinking slowly, as if I could close my eyes and make the snake vanish.
I stood as still as I could on the edge of a limestone cliff, the toes of my tennis shoes hanging off the hillside, my heartbeat thudding hard and fast at the base of my throat, my neck stiff, and my eyes on my shoes. On the diamondback rattler, gleaming brown and black and silver-gray, curled around both my feet, looped across the tops of my laces.
Its head was unmistakably wedge-shaped, and its tail was light brown, decorated with eight rattles. I’d had time to count them; I’d been standing there for at least fifteen minutes, trying not to move a single muscle.
My mouth had gone bone dry. I swallowed hard, and the snake’s head, which had rested on the top of my left sneaker near my bare ankle, bobbed up, black tongue tasting the air.
I held my breath.
For a moment, I thought of kicking the snake off my feet, running for it. Then I realized it was completely wrapped around my ankles. If I tried to kick it, it would bite me for sure. So far, it was just . . . smelling me, it seemed like. I remembered that from reading about snakes when I was little. They smelled with their tongues.
I hoped it liked what it smelled, because I remembered something else. Rattlesnakes could strike at twice the length of their bodies. So this one, if it wanted to, could bite somewhere close to my throat.
Boots. I should have worn boots. Or at least jeans, instead of my stupid gym shorts from sixth-grade PE.
Dark spots swam before my eyes. I had to breathe. I did so, slowly, trying as hard as I could not to make any sound at all, not to attract the snake’s attention any more than I had.
The snake didn’t strike, or move, just continued to lick the air. And then, a centimeter at a time, it laid down on my feet.
Like it was planning to take a nap.
I breathed slow and easy, or tried to, and wondered how long a snake’s nap might take. How long was I going to be standing there, with a snake wrapped around my ankles, waiting to be bitten or to fall over?
Someone would come looking for me, I thought. I wasn’t hiding or anything. They’d find me. If someone came over the hill and ran in the same direction I had for twenty minutes or so.
Out here in the totally uninhabited countryside.
I almost laughed. That was never going to happen. I was stuck out here, with nothing to do but wait, nothing to feel but fear.
As I stood there, trying as hard as I could not to rock back and forth for balance, I felt my shoulders begin to relax. There was nothing I could do, right?
Nothing but be still. Or die.
I didn’t die. I didn’t even get in trouble when I got home four hours later. Turns out, it’s not running away when no one notices you’re gone.
“What did you do today, Peter?” Dad asked, passing me the mashed potatoes at dinner. “You didn’t stay in your room again, did you, buddy? You know, some fresh air would do you good.”
I didn’t answer for a minute. What could I tell him? “Dad, I ran away and spent the afternoon trapped by a venomous snake”? Maybe he’d feel guilty. He’d been the reason I’d left, after all. Well, his drumming anyway.
Dad had lost his job and most of his hair in the past year, and he’d decided to relive his youth or something by playing the drums. He was “brushing up his chops” to audition for a band in Austin, he said.
That afternoon, he’d tried to get me to join in, handing me cowbells and triangles and nodding at me when I was supposed to bang on them. Father-and-son time.
I had told him the sounds gave me a headache.
I wasn’t lying.
“You’re so sensitive, Peter,” Dad had said, disappointed in me, as usual. “You’ve got to toughen up.”
I’d only heard that a thousand times. But for some reason, that day the truth had hit me. I’d never be tough enough for him.
I wondered if he’d believe I was tougher than a rattlesnake. I glanced up. Nope. He was wearing his perpetual “Why is my son such a weirdo?” expression. So I just answered, “I went walking.”
“Oh?” Mom perked up and looked away from her lap, where she’d been typing something on her phone under the tablecloth. Probably trying to get on Facebook, even though it was practically impossible to get reception way out here. “Where did you go? Did you meet anyone?”
I thought of the snake and smiled a little. I didn’t think that was what she meant.
My older sister, Laura, stopped spooning baby food into Carlie’s mouth—or mostly onto her shirt and bib, as Carlie was sort of a moving target—and interrupted. “Are you kidding? Of course he didn’t see anyone. Come on, Mom. You moved us out to the butt end of nowhere. There aren’t any people for, like, fifty miles around.”
“Laura, that negative attitude has to go,” Mom argued. “I’ll have you know, there are two boys Peter’s age who live at a house only a mile away. This is a great place for us. It doesn’t take any longer for me to commute in to the office, since there’s almost no traffic—”
“Because no people,” Laura interrupted, leaning back in her chair and angrily popping pieces of okra into her mouth. “No civilization,” she growled through a mouth full of okra guts.
“No tattooed boyfriends,” Dad added. “No potheads.” He winked at me. I tried not to smile. I was the only one who’d heard, since Mom had started up again.
“Well, you’re hardly one to talk about being civilized, Laura Elizabeth Stone.” Mom raised her eyebrows. “Eating with your fingers? When you two go back to school this fall, I think you’ll want to act a little nicer—”
That set Laura off again, on her favorite topic of having to attend a country high school where the biggest summer event was a rodeo, and 80 percent of the kids raised goats and steers for 4-H.
It was really different out here in the hill country, that was for sure. Different from our apartment in San Antonio, where we’d lived for almost eleven years. We’d only been in the new house for a week, but I could tell it wouldn’t ever be home. There was nothing homey about it: a two-story, thirty-year-old wood-frame box with three different colors of vinyl siding and windows so loose they rattled in a stiff breeze.
I hated it. I think we all did. But we hadn’t had much choice. Our old landlord had said that Dad’s drums and guitars were driving away his other tenants. “Driving them crazy,” he’d moaned the day he delivered the news that he wouldn’t renew our lease.
I couldn’t blame him. The noise of my family was unreal. The TV was on all the time, turned up loud enough to cover Carlie’s constant tantrums and crying. My mom talked on the phone whenever she was home, or talked at the girls and me. When she didn’t think we were listening to her—which was pretty much always—she just talked louder.
Like she was doing now, arguing with Laura. My head started to feel like something was squeezing it slowly, but hard. Carlie went from spitting food on her tray to crying. I picked at my meat loaf and thought of the valley I’d found that day. Where I’d met the snake.
It wasn’t that far. Just across some fields of weeds, cacti, and a few scraggly trees and bushes that had more thorns than leaves. Then over the top of the hill behind that, past the fence made of railroad ties stacked diagonally on each other like enormous Lincoln Logs, and across the thin stretch of asphalt that was being retaken by grasses and wildflowers on both edges.
Just far enough away that I couldn’t hear crying or yelling or drumming.
It had seemed like a dream. For the first time in years, I hadn’t heard cars or trains, TVs or video games or people. Hadn’t seen a roofline or even a plane in the sky.
I’d been alone for the first time in my whole life, almost. I liked it.
No, I loved it. Out there, my heartbeat was as loud as anything in the world.
Carlie shrieked. My head was the only thing pounding now. Well, that and Carlie’s feet on the bottom of the table.
“Well, why couldn’t we get a better house at least? One with high-speed Internet?” Laura asked. “It’s like living on Mars.”
“True,” Dad agreed around a mouthful of salad. “That part’s such a drag. Maybe we could get the cable company to hook us up—”
“We’re on one paycheck,” Mom hissed. “Mine. Did you forget?”
Dad lifted his chin in my direction, like I was supposed to say something.
I knew better.
But he didn’t. He rolled his eyes—at Mom. “Like you would let me for one minute. Nag, nag, nag.”
I held still. Laura did, too. Even Carlie paused in her tantrum. Then the world exploded into noise as Mom and Dad went at it, throwing blame and insults at each other as fast as they could, like they each were trying to win some invisible food fight.
And they didn’t care who got hit.
“You chose this place without even consulting me, Maxine,” Dad yelled. “Just because I’m out of a job doesn’t mean I’m out of the family.” His next word was a bullet. “Yet.”
Carlie was crying full-out now, and Laura picked her up, humming some lullaby but never taking her eyes off Mom and Dad. She looked as scared as I felt.
Was this it? Were they splitting up?
My parents had always fought a little, usually in their room at night, after they thought us kids were asleep. But since Dad had been laid off eleven months ago—the same week Mom had gotten promoted to assistant manager at the bank—the yelling had gotten lots worse.
“You know we had to get away from the city, Joshua,” Mom said, her voice low. “You know why.” I felt her eyes on me, their eyes.
Maybe it was Dad’s fault we’d been evicted. But it was my fault we’d had to move out here, away from the city they’d all loved. I knew that. Laura made sure to remind me every day.
Their stares burned into my skin.
“May I be excused?” My voice was a whisper. Too soft; no one heard.
The headache was getting worse, fast. It felt like something was splitting behind my right eye. Like my brain was under attack.
I held every bit as still as I had that afternoon, and I wished I was back at the rim of the valley.
And then, in my mind, I was.
My skin prickled. Like something was watching me. Something invisible and mysterious and vast. It seemed like the valley was waiting to see what I would do. I stayed motionless for longer than I ever had, wondering what was expected.
And then the valley took a breath.
Wind moved across the bowl, shifting trees and bushes like the land was a giant cat being petted. It moved fast, faster. It was almost here, almost to me.
Would the wind knock me over?
The hot air rushed around me, and the clatter of leaves sounded like excited whispers in my ears. Sounded almost like . . . hissing?
I smiled, remembering the rattler. I’d been so still, when it slid across my feet it had probably thought I was a tree or a rock. Thought I belonged there.
I stood for hours, snake around my ankles, fear in my throat. The breeze rose back up, pushing strands of my hair past my ears. It reminded me of when my grandma was alive, and she would stroke the hair back over my ear, feather-gentle.
The world around me came to life, like an orchestra tuning up. Somewhere to my right, a bird began to sing, a bunch of mixed-up trills. A mockingbird, I thought. Grasshoppers and frogs joined in. Something larger must have moved a little farther away, since I heard the sharp thud of rocks knocking together and sliding downhill.
The sun beat on my face, and I saw the shadows of clouds moving across the sky even with my eyes shut, as the light behind my eyelids went from red to black to red again.
Someone—something—was watching me. A shiver ran up my spine and made goose bumps prickle on my arms. It was the same feeling I used to get when my teacher would lean over my desk to tell me what a good job I’d done, in a quiet voice so no one else would hear.
Then something else sent a chill up my back. The snake was moving.
I opened my eyes and waited as it went from being wrapped around my ankles to slithering across the rocky soil toward a bush. And then, with a flick of its rattle, it slid under the bush like it had never been on my ankles at all.
I let out my breath and turned to go, my feet numb with the effort it had taken to stay in one place for so long. For a moment I wanted to shout, holler, and whoop as loud as I could. But before I did, a hawk flew by and yelled for me—screeched and wheeled right overhead, like it was saying hello. Or well done.
I waved with one hand, wondering why the hawk’s answering call sounded like laughter. Why the sudden gust of wind felt like gentle hands pushing at my shoulders. Pretending to try to tip me over, the same way my grandpa used to when we’d sit on his porch in Houston, just the two of us, him telling dirty jokes and me holding back laughter so Mom and Dad wouldn’t come and hear and make him stop.
Suddenly, the rattlesnake seemed like one of his jokes. Dangerous and funny and private. No one would believe me if I told them anyway.
“Helloooo?” The valley disappeared, and I blinked. Laura was waving her hand in front of my face. I didn’t know how long she’d been doing it, how long I’d been staring at my plate.
It must have been a long time. Laura looked really worried, and her voice quivered when she asked, “What’s wrong with you, Peter?”
“Peter?” Laura repeated, louder. She had her hand on my arm. How long had she been touching me? I hadn’t even felt her. I’d been lost in my thoughts. “Were you having a seizure or something?”
Mom and Dad were still fighting, in angry whispers, but standing by the door. So we wouldn’t hear? A few words came through: “ . . . therapist bills or groceries? You have to try harder. He needs more help. He’s still not himself. . . . ”
Talking about me. I could feel the blood rushing to my face, and I shook Laura’s hand away. “No. It’s nothing. I was daydreaming. Just . . . leave me alone.” I looked at my arm. She’d accidentally wiped some of Carlie’s baby food there. “Gross, Laura.” I flicked it at her.
“Fine,” she said. “Be that way. Weirdo.” She pulled her phone out of her pocket, waving it around to try to get a signal, ignoring us all.
I cleared my throat. “Mom, may I be excused? Mom? Mom?”
I didn’t think she’d heard me, but then—“Peep!” Carlie screamed her version of my name at the top of her lungs. “Peep!”
Mom swung her head around. “Did you need something, Peter?”
“I have a headache,” I said. “May I be excused?”
Mom fussed over me for a minute, tried to get me to take a Tylenol, and when I wouldn’t, she stuffed a chocolate chip cookie into my hand like it was some sort of secret-recipe painkiller.
“Come watch a movie with us tonight,” she said as I cleared my plate. “We’re going to do a Fast and Furious marathon the whole weekend, to celebrate having almost all the unpacking done so soon.”
“No, thanks. I’m just going to go sit in my room.” Mom chewed on her lower lip; I could tell she was trying not to react. “To read, Mom. That’s all.”
I wasn’t lying. I figured I would read up on snakes again. It might come in handy.
I left the table and had almost made it to my door when I remembered we’d put all the nature books in the living room. I was walking back when I heard Laura say softly, “What is it with Peter? Did you even notice him, just sitting there like a lump? We shouldn’t have moved. He’s worse than ever. Tell the truth. Is he brain-dead or something? Did you drop him on his head when he was a baby?”
“Laura Stone!” Mom’s voice was harsh, but quiet, too. “Your brother’s perfectly fine. He’s just . . . different. Introverted. And you know what he was going through last spring. We had to move, for more than one reason. So stop complaining about it. Remember, stay positive around him.”
“Whatever,” Laura said. “I’ve tried. It’s not working. He’s getting weirder since we moved out here. All this time alone? It’s not good for . . . whatever he has.”
“You know, you may be right,” Dad started. “I mean, he’s always been so quiet, it’s hard to tell what he’s thinking—or feeling. But he may actually be getting more depressed since we moved. I was wondering if . . . ”
I tiptoed back to my room without the snake book, my face burning, not wanting to hear whatever my dad was saying back.
It wasn’t like I was going to do anything anyway. I wasn’t going to go rushing in there and defend myself. Standing up to them—to anyone—scared me more than running away, any day. Laura had told me a thousand times, and it was true: I was a wimp. I was a pushover. I was an embarrassment.
They all thought I was defective. I’d heard Mom tell Dad more than once that I’d been “born into the wrong family.” I even knew what they meant; I didn’t fit in with the rest of them, except maybe Carlie. When she was asleep.
But it didn’t make it hurt any less.
I ran away again as soon as it got light enough to see. This time, I left a note on my bed just in case Mom or Dad went so far as to open my door to check on me, and I snagged a couple of granola bars and a bottle of water to stuff in my backpack.
“Peep?” Carlie called as I ran though the living room on my way to the door. She was watching TV in her playpen, which meant Mom had already been up and gone back to sleep, I assumed. It was Saturday, after all.
Carlie had taken her diaper off and was tearing it into little bits, so I stopped for a second to gather up the pieces and toss them, then wrap another one around her. “Don’t tear this one, Carlie,” I whispered. “That could get messy.” She put her finger up to her lips, made a shushing sound, and nodded. Then she held her arms up again. “Peep?” She wanted to come with me.
“Not today, Carbar,” I answered. I put my hands together and made a hissing sound. “There’s snakes out there. Lots and lots of big snakes.” I pretended my hands were snake jaws, and she broke into peals of laughter. I almost stayed there with her, playing, but then I heard a door on the other side of the house squeal open, and knew I’d get stuck with babysitting and cleaning if I hung around. The normal Saturday routine.
“Bye-bye.” I waved and left, my feet quiet on the carpet.
The night before, I’d gone looking for my old boots—the pair Dad had bought for me during my three-week failed Boy Scout experiment a year and a half ago. I’d found them in one of the remaining moving boxes and left them in the front hall, hidden behind Carlie’s baby swing. I slipped them on right outside the door. They pinched a little bit, but I didn’t care. They’d be fairly snake-proof, I hoped.
I walked faster than the day before, since I knew where I was going. Or at least where I was going to start.
The snake wasn’t there this time, even though I looked at what I thought was the same bush it had crawled under. For a second I wondered if I had imagined its appearance.
No. The snake had been real, more real than most of the things in my life—video games and TV shows, comic books and chores.
I walked to the ledge I’d stopped at before and scanned the valley. It didn’t feel strange like it had yesterday. I didn’t get the sense anything was watching.
But something was calling me. Halfway down the hillside, where another hill pushed up against the one I was on, a line of trees, growing larger further down, gleamed bright green, their leaves waving in the morning air. I pelted down the hill, my boots slipping on limestone rocks that weren’t attached to anything, the tufts of thick grasses stopping my fall before I could slip too far.
It was crazy running down the hill. I didn’t care. The wind rushed up against my face as I went, promising to catch me if I stepped too far away from the ground.
The cluster of oak trees was farther away than I’d thought, and I got out of breath. I slowed down and started walking more quietly. There might be deer hiding in the trees, I thought. If I was quiet enough, maybe I’d see one.
But by the time I pushed back some smaller bushes and stepped under the oaks, I was the only thing making any sound on the hillside.
I couldn’t seem to stop making noise. Every step I took in my clunky boots cracked seedpods and acorns underfoot, popping them like a bunch of Black Cat fireworks in the silence of the grove. Last fall’s windblown drifts of leaves crunched and crackled underfoot, and even my breathing seemed loud and out of place.
I’d never see a deer or another snake or anything else if I kept making so much noise. I stopped, looked around, and saw a large rock jutting out from the mounds of dead leaves. No, not just a rock: a pile of them. As I approached, I realized I was following the slope of the hillside right up to the point where it touched the other hill.
When I got there, I looked down the slope. The rocks were old and weathered, covered with dried algae-like stuff and old moss. But there were damp patches underneath. What if I kept going, walked along the stones? Would I find a creek? A lake? Animals hung out near lakes, I knew that.
I slipped off my boots to stay quiet and tucked them in my backpack with my granola bars. Then, slowly, I crept down the rocks, trying to be as silent as possible.
A minute or so later, I stopped. Below me, only a few yards away, was a pool. A deer stood there, its head bowed. A doe, I thought. It didn’t have antlers like the males I’d seen at the zoo. Suddenly, it jumped back from the water like something had surprised it, and it stepped nervously away from the edge. I held my breath, wondering if the doe had heard me. Its nostrils flared. Maybe it had smelled me?
Then, stepping as carefully as I had, it lifted one silent foot at a time and tiptoed away from the water’s edge, slipping through the trees and back out onto the hillside. I began to move again, curious to see what was in the pool. What had startled the deer?
But when I got to the rock where it had stood drinking, I looked into the water, and nothing was there. The pool itself was beautiful, with rocks overhanging one edge, making a small cave-like hole at that end. The surface wasn’t more than ten feet across, although the water looked at least five feet deep in the center. It was clean, and when the sunlight shone through the oak leaves overhead, it sparkled across the top of the pool. I sat there on the rock, staring into the water with my legs crossed and my hands folded, feeling hypnotized. After a while I closed my eyes. I hadn’t slept well the night before, dreaming of snakes and valleys that came to life.
I might have dozed; I wasn’t sure. But something woke me. A sound? A humming. I held still, feeling what had to be legs on me, tickling the hairs on my arms. Had ants crawled onto me? Bees? I opened my eyes, remembering the snake, making sure to move only my eyelids.
My arms were covered with dragonflies. No, they were smaller than that. But similar. Brightly colored, red and blue and glossy black, with thin graceful wings and long segmented bodies. They must have decided I was a good perch, because there were at least twenty of them on each of my arms.
They liked me. I could feel it in the way they moved, dancing on my skin. Just like the valley liked me—and for the same reason my family didn’t.
Because I was still and quiet.
I’d finally found the place where I could be alone. Where I could be me. It was perfect.
I’ll always be quiet here, I thought to the valley. I promise. I’ll never yell, or scream, or ruin you with a bunch of racket.
Something tickled my hair in response, and I knew that the dragonfly things were up there, too. I felt a laugh welling up inside me and tried to keep it from coming out. If I made a noise, or moved, they would all fly off.
But the tickling on top of my ear got to be too much, and I let out a small sound, half a sigh.
They all took flight, skimming over the water. I did laugh then.
And someone muttered, “Dang it.”
I jumped up, and the baby dragonflies—or whatever they were—spiraled away from the water entirely, deserting me. I whipped my head around, wondering where the voice had come from. Was the person invisible? Enough weirdness had happened in this valley that I wasn’t sure anything could surprise me.
But then something moved, and I saw it—her. Sitting on the other side of the pool, half-hidden by a bush, a small face with a knitted brown hat on top, covering her hair. How had I missed her?
I said the words out loud.
“I blend,” the girl said, stepping away from the bushes. She held something in her hand. A sketchpad, it looked like, and a charcoal pencil—an expensive one, I thought. It was the kind my art teacher at school used, the kind she never let the kids touch since we would “just ruin them anyway.”
The girl looked about my age. She was maybe a few inches shorter, even if I wasn’t tall for being almost thirteen. Dressed all in green and brown, with her brown skin just lighter than the tree trunks around us, she did sort of blend. Until she moved.
“Who are you?” the girl asked. The insects around us had fallen quiet.
“Peter,” I answered. Without warning, a wave of heat rushed through me. I recognized the feeling: anger. “Peter Stone,” I repeated, trying to keep my voice calm. I never let my feelings show, not if I could help it.
I wanted to spit, though. My tongue tasted bitter all of a sudden. Like the anger was literally filling my mouth.
It figured. I had finally found a place to be alone, to be quiet, and this girl was here. Maybe she even lived nearby. She’d fill the valley with noise and talking. I turned back to the water, wishing her away.
“Apt,” she said, then settled back into a cross-legged position and began to sketch. She didn’t say anything else.
Apt? What had she meant by that? Curiosity itched at me worse than the baby dragonflies had. But I wasn’t going to speak. If I stayed quiet enough, she’d leave. It had always worked at school, on the playground, even at home. If I stayed still, stayed boring, people left me alone.
Mostly. A shiver went down my back, remembering when that hadn’t worked. Remembering what had happened to make my parents move us all so far away from home. What had made my dad look at me every day like he was ashamed.
I shook the dark thoughts away and concentrated on the girl. What was she sketching? And why had she said apt? I thought I knew what that meant.
I couldn’t stand it. I had to ask.
“What do you mean?”
She glanced up, brown eyes deeper than the pool between us. She frowned down at her sketchbook, then at me.
“Your name. Peter Stone. Also, a bit repetitive. What were your parents thinking?”
Now this girl was really starting to annoy me. Why did she think my name was apt and repetitive? I stood up.
“Don’t,” she called out. “I’m almost done.”
“Don’t move just yet,” she said, motioning for me to sit back down. “I’ve almost got you. I wasn’t able to get all the damselflies. . . . ” Her voice trailed off, and I stared at her. Damselflies? Oh, that was what the little dragonflies were called. Then I got it. She’d been drawing them—and me. I settled back down, feeling strange. No one had ever drawn me. I wasn’t interesting-looking. Plain brown hair, brown eyes, medium-sized. Nothing special. In fact, I was invisible to most everyone.
This girl was the kind people drew, though. She reminded me of the damselflies as she worked: Her arms were thin and . . . elegant. Her eyelashes fluttered like their lacy wings had. She looked a little like a fairy, although the expression on her face was pure human grumpiness.
“What?” I said, wondering if she’d come back with another one-word answer.
“I can’t get your face right, not now. Not when you’re moving, Stone Boy.”
“Well, yes,” she said, slapping her sketchpad shut and walking on her toes around the circle of rocks to where I was. She was barefoot like me. “Peter means stone, of course. Or rock. And I thought you were one, for a while. I mean, how do you do that? I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“Do what?” I had never been so confused by a person in my life. It sounded like she was speaking English, but I wasn’t following half of her words.
What People are Saying About This
Early Praise for Wish Girl:
"A moving, mesmerizing story of wishing, listening and hope." Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"I found hope and magic tucked gently into every page of Wish Girl. I wish ever reader could have a friend like Annie." Natalie Lloyd, author of A Snicker of Magic
"Wish Girl is a book full of beauty and truth. Its pages are filled with the emotion of first love and the energy of suspense." Francisco Stork, author of Marcelo in the Real World
"Wish Girl is a book that knows real magic exists that art, nature, and true friendship have the power to save lives and transform the world. It's at once earthly and ethereal, heartbreaking and hopeful. It dazzles." Laurel Synder, author of Bigger than a Breadbox
Praise for Nikki Loftin's Nightingale's Nest:
“It was the writing, of course, that struck my attention first. Loftin gives the book beautiful sequences filled with equally beautiful sentences. . . . As for the characters, there wasn’t a person here that I couldn’t recognize as real. I was quite taken with the fact that Loftin continually sidesteps a lot of the usual middle grade tropes. . . . Smart and beautiful by turns, Nightingale’s Nest does one thing that few will contest. Once you’ve read it, you’ll have a hard time getting it out of your head.” –Elizabeth Bird, School Library Journal Blog
"Unusual, finely crafted story of loss, betrayal, and healing." —Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"Magical realism meets coming of age in this sensitive and haunting novel . . . . Read this aloud and have both boys and girls alike utterly enraptured." –BCCB, starred review
"It is Loftin’s skill in depicting both the human and the arboreal characters that will engage and inspire readers. The lyrical, descriptive prose and the hopeful ending will linger long after the final chapter." —School Library Journal
"Riveting. . . . This is a book you'll long remember."—Lynda Mullaly Hunt, author of One for the Murphys
"An extraordinary read—I had to tear myself away from it."—Katherine Catmull, author of Summer and Bird
"Perfectly captures the challenges of growing up and dealing with loss. Get ready to have your heart touched."—Shannon Messenger, author of Keeper of the Lost Cities
"Tugs and tears at the reader’s heart. . . . lovely and magical."—Bethany Hegedus, author of Truth with a Capital T and Between Us Baxters
"Loftin's eye for strange beauty in unexpected places often takes the reader's breath away."—Claire Legrand, author of The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls
"Will haunt your soul—and lift your heart."—Kimberley Griffiths Little, author of The Healing Spell and When the Butterflies Came
"A haunting, beautifully told story!"—Bobbie Pyron, author of The Dogs of Winter and A Dog's Way Home
"The kind of book I wanted to read slowly."—Shelley Moore Thomas, author of The Seven Tales of Trinket
"This is a work of tremendous heart."—Anne Ursu, author of Breadcrumbs
Praise for Nikki Loftin's The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy:
"A mesmerizing read."—Publisher's Weekly
"An irresistable contemporary fairy tale."—Kirkus Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I enjoyed the end immensely and loved how there was a sense of majic snpppp
What really makes this book sing is the writing. Especially the first line: "The summer before I turned thirteen, I held so still it almost killed me." This, like other sentences in the book, are both poignant and straight-forward, which made this a very digestible read overall. And, the challenge the protagonist faces is one that many of us (especially introverts) can relate to--needing to get away from noise long enough to think. The fact that Peter's last name is Stone is no accident--and doesn't go past the notice of Annie, the "wish girl" he meets in the woods, who is also escaping something--a craft camp she's attending before a cancer treatment that will likely change her life--and who she is. Especially fascinating is how their meeting place affects those that encounter it. Throughout the story, Peter grows in unexpected ways that flawlessly intertwine with a seamless and well-paced plot. And Annie defies definition in ways that make her not only a compelling character, but one that readers will want to stick with for pages--especially when they find out what happens to her in the end. Overall, I really enjoyed this book--and have been recommending it to all the librarians I can find (including some at BEA last week). A great book for those seeking the unexpected, and wanting to explore the inbetween.
A tender story about a young boy's internal fight to be seen and understood by his family and the special wish girl who gives him the courage to reveal who he is to himself and his family. Peter Stone is bullied so horribly that his family relocates just outside of Austin to give him a fresh start. Unfortunately, Peter's inner demons along with a new set of bullies follow him into the magical valley surrounding his hillside home. But with the help of Annie, the wish girl battling cancer, he opens his heart and learns to trust himself and his family again. Loftin is a master at creating stories that tug at your heart and WISH GIRL is full of hope and promise even in the face of life's unfairness.