The chosen few works in the tunnels collecting the mica but is are they chosen by chance or design? And what of the rest of the world?
Title: A Single Stone
Author: Meg McKinlay
Themes: cult-like towns
What’s it about?
Jena leads the team of girls to collect mica for the town. The town needs the mica to survive. One day she begins to question what the Mothers are doing after a passing comment from a boy she knows. She decides to learn the truth and do something to make things change.
The concept of an isolated town with people doing what they have been told to do is an interesting concept. Min is an interesting character and is well developed despite her short role in the book.
High ratio of descriptive passages vs. dialogue.
My Thoughts…Avoid It
The first of the Older Reader shortlisted books for Book Week 2016 that I read. I chose to read this one first as I love the cover of the book. The cover is interesting and a step away from the “pretty girl with flowing dress” that is overused for this age group.
Let me start by writing that I do like the concept of the book. The idea behind it is very intriguing and interesting but the book just doesn’t cut it. There are moments when you are transfixed on the story and the characters only to become disengaged on the next page.
At the beginning the story is painfully slow. The large paragraphs of descriptions of the girls as they make their way through the mountain becomes tedious quickly. I feel like the book tells but doesn’t show. I never get a mental picture of what it is they see, nor feel anything. Also, the beginning really could have been edited out substantially as the story only got going around chapter 12.
Jena goes from being a strong character to weak without reason. I imagined from what I read she was 16 or 17 only to find out towards the end she was 14. Alternative names are given for events, that in general I don’t mind but please explain. Rebus is referring to inducing labor; thickening I am thinking is puberty?? but I’m not 100%. If you must include different terms please for the sanity of the reader put in a glossary!
Confusion. Lia. She appears in short bursts throughout the book and admittedly I kept finding myself going back to the members of Jena’s line to work out who she was – of course she wasn’t in the line. Lia is out of place and each time the story flipped to her I lost interest again.
I have similar feelings about the flashbacks. Some were interesting but a lot were just boring. I get why the author included them but to me there are other ways they could have been written/included in the novel that wouldn’t keep putting up a brick wall as you read the story. Lia and little Jena constantly stopped the flow of the story.
Now let’s look at the plot. I’ve already stated it took far to long to get into it. I was mildly interested in Jena and Luka (though I felt Thom and Min were better developed and easier to connect to) and what they discovered…but it was too cliched. Luka happened to hear. Jena happened to overhear. Jena happened to have a key (and only her). Jena happened to find the stone…the bizarre coincidences got on my nerves. Oh and let’s not forget how the entire novel is wrapped up so neat and tidy in the last couple of pages. The ending is rushed and pretty much “happy”.
Then there is the total lack of emotion (Thom exempted). Here is a spoiler: Luka’s grandmother dies after catching fire. She is buried. Move on. Yes, little emotion or connection. I only felt slightly more when the bird was killed. Everything is too superficial and I feel that the plot and characters needed far more work and development to make this story work.
I am concerned, based on the number of new YA novels I have read this year, that there is a growing trend for great concepts but plots and characters that aren’t fully fleshed out. I wanted to like this book. I loved the cover. That’s about it.
This is another one I can’t recommend for the classroom at all. There is just nothing there to work with. In terms of general recommendation I feel that some teenage girls would be left wanting more to have happened – to have connected more to Jena, for more of a connection with Luka.
Get to know the author
Click the image to the left to be taken to Meg McKinlay’s official website.
Banner/picture collage was located on her website.