In an isolated society, one girl makes a discovery that will change everything — and learns that a single stone, once set in motion, can bring down a mountain.
Jena — strong, respected, reliable — is the leader of the line, a job every girl in the village dreams of. Watched over by the Mothers as one of the chosen seven, Jena’s years spent denying herself food and wrapping her limbs have paid off. She is small enough to squeeze through the tunnels of the mountain and gather the harvest, risking her life with each mission. No work is more important. This has always been the way of things, even if it isn’t easy. But as her suspicions mount and Jena begins to question the life she’s always known, the cracks in her world become impossible to ignore. Thought-provoking and quietly complex, Meg McKinlay’s novel unfolds into a harshly beautiful tale of belief, survival, and resilience stronger than stone
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence, Self-starvation, Self-injury
Booklist (January 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 9))
Grades 5-8. Jena is the leader of her line of seven girls primed since birth to navigate natural mountain passageways and harvest the mica that fuels their community. The mountain is revered, and the Mothers lead the isolated village nestled in its basin. Digging passages is forbidden, so slim-framed girls are bound tightly from infancy to create lithe figures that might easily slip through rock crevices to gather the harvests. McKinlay’s middle-grade dystopia quietly builds a peaceful society, in which Jena is proud of her position and honors the word of the Mothers. When her adoptive mother goes into labor far too early, however, Jena suspects a plot to produce smaller girls to work the line. As she investigates her suspicions and recalls events from her childhood, cracks begin to appear in the Mothers’ stories. Tension twists through the narrative in the claustrophobic mountain passages, the polite yet oppressively controlled society, and Jena’s risky rebellion. Action is minimal, but detail-oriented readers who like stepping into a carefully crafted world will find plenty to ponder in this book’s pages.
Kirkus Reviews starred (January 1, 2017)
In an isolated mountain village, seven girls tunnel deep into the earth in order to provide for the well-being of all.Fourteen-year-old Jena is the leader of the line, a group of seven carefully trained girls who harvest mica from deep within the mountain. For their village, heat- and light-giving mica is life-sustaining, and if not collected with reverence for the mountain, terrible things can happen, such as the Rockfall that took many villagers’ lives generations ago. The Mothers, wise women who govern the village, carefully select the tiniest baby girls to be prepared for their futures as tunnelers. From birth, the chosen ones are wrapped tightly and fed very little in order to prevent them from becoming too large to fit the tight spaces that weave through the mountain. When Jena discovers the Mothers are inducing labor months early in order to birth smaller babies for training, she questions everything she was raised to believe. The novel simultaneously takes on dystopian and time-slip qualities, but it is of neither genre, and readers will appreciate being left to figure it out for themselves. Similarly, the villagers seem to be pale-skinned but are otherwise racially indeterminate. The prose flows gracefully, like rivulets down a mountainside. Like its classic predecessors, Nan Chauncy’s Tangara (1960) and Patricia Wrightson’s The Nargun and the Stars (1974), this Australian novel explores the ways in which identity is tied to the land one inhabits. A beautiful, sparkling gem. (Fiction. 10-14)
About the Author
Meg McKinlay is a children’s writer and poet living in Fremantle, Western Australia
She has published twelve books for children, ranging from picture books through to young adult novels, and a collection of poetry for adults. Her most recent publications are the chapter book Bella and the Wandering House and novel A Single Stone, which won the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Young Adult Fiction as well as a number of other awards.
A former academic, swimming teacher, Japanese interpreter and tour guide, Meg has accidentally lived her life in accordance with the song lyrics, “If you see a strange door to your left/then drop your things and run for it”, which is how she found herself wrangling words for a living. Meg has no plans to drop writing, though; she is always cooking up more books, with two new picture books scheduled for 2017, and more to follow.
Her website is www.megmckinlay.com.
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