Reviews provided by Syndetics
Publishers Weekly Review
This gripping story, first published in Australia, unearths the sinister underpinnings of an isolated matriarchal society. A catastrophic event known as "Rockfall" created a sealed community ruled by "the Mothers" and dependent on the harvest of mica to survive the winters. Jena, a steely 14-year-old, holds elevated status as the gifted leader of the line of tiny girls who tunnel into the rock's crevices to locate the precious mineral. The claustrophobia inherent in this walled-off world is further heightened as Jena awakens to the gruesome practices that the Mothers employ to breed ever more waiflike miners, including those that are already out in the open ("In the mountain, in the dark, it didn't matter what you looked like. It didn't matter whether you had been more into your smallness or helped along by the knife, by the careful breaking and compression of your bones"). McKinlay (Below) believably evokes the dangers inherent in Jena's burgeoning autonomous thoughts and actions in a tightly controlled dystopian environment where her grace and power ultimately prevail. Ages 10-up. (Mar.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
School Library Journal Review
Gr 5-8-Fourteen-year-old Jena has a lot of responsibility. She is one of seven girls from her village who work the line. With her six companions, Jena enters the mountain to harvest the mica her village needs for fuel and light. Her sheltered culture tells stories of a time before when the world was much wider, but they believe they are the only ones who have survived. In this culture, the Mothers are venerated and girls-particularly small girls who can get into the crevices of the mountain-are most highly valued. It is within this cloistered existence that Jena makes the discovery that not all is as it seems. The Mothers are inducing early pregnancy at great risk to both mothers and infants in an attempt to manipulate the size of the babies. Jena's questions jeopardize her position as one of the elites, but also open up the possibilities of a larger world and reunification with her biological family. Lauren Enzo capably voices a variety of characters using a steady cadence that mirrors the pacing of the plot, which begins with a slow burn and builds to revelations that beg for a sequel. VERDICT This production is a winning blend of dystopia, survival, and mystery for patient listeners.-Jodeana Kruse, R.A. Long High School, Longview, WA © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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.--Smith, Julia Copyright 2017 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
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) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.