Janni Lee Simner’s first young adult book, Bones of Faerie, has a haunting first chapter—you can read it here—that warns readers right away about the dark places the book will go. For all that protective parents worry about what their kids are reading, this is my favorite kind of YA book both now and when I was in middle school. Simner’s 15-year-old heroine Liza encounters major obstacles and works her way around them with the help of a faithful animal companion, a longtime-acquaintance turned friend and some interesting strangers who have more to them than meets the eye. Part post-apocalyptic adventure tale and part folklore, Bones of Faerie is definitely built on familiar ground, until the ground sprouts vines that try to eat you.
The book opens with Liza’s baby sister dead and her mother missing, events that have shaken Liza deeply and are about to provoke her journey, but even things that are commonplace to her are compelling to someone just entering her world. Before Liza was born, a war between humans and Faerie left both sides changed forever. Now, in what was once Missouri, plants kill unwary people and all technology is gone. Liza’s village, headed by her controlling father, fights the magic left in the world, but as Liza meets strangers and learns more about her own mother, assumption after fearful assumption is questioned. It’s not easy on Liza at all; part of what makes Bones of Faerie such a compelling read is that that Simner completely inhabits Liza’s point of view, and her constant wariness and her confusion and anger at generosity give the book an emotional punch. We watch from inside Liza as she grows up and faces the tragedies of her sister and both her parents, not lightly but with resolve. I also appreciated Simner’s subtly lyrical prose, something often neglected or horribly overdone in YA books—heck, in all books. The plot twists made me turn back to previous chapters and go, “yup…” or “aha!” It’s a fairly quick read, at 247 pages, inventive, well-crafted and even fun.
With many thanks to Janni Lee Simner’s publicist at Random House, Meg O’Brien, we have five signed hardcover copies of Bones of Faerie to give away! The first five comments requesting a copy get one. It’s as easy as that, although you do have to be willing to send your snail-mail address to megan -dot- messinger at the domain macmillan.com so we can mail you the goods. And if you’re not one of those five, you can still head over to Coyote Wild Magazine and read the full text of “Invasive Species,” a short story set in the world of Bones of Faerie but in its Arizona; watch out for those man-eating jackrabbits and the killer cacti. Oh, and “Don't touch any stone that glows with faerie light, or that light will burn you fiercer than any fire. Don’t venture out alone into the dark, or the darkness will swallow you whole. And cast out the magic born among you, before it can turn on its parents.”