This is classic YA at its best.
To me, classic YA follows a formula: an older teenager, usually a female, has tragedy strike the family, usually a death of a close family member. Best friends turn out not to be best friends, and good-hearted oddballs become the new, reliable best friend. The stories are full of pathos. The drama is high drama. Everything is tragic at its utmost. The romances are true love. And the adults don’t really ‘get’ any of what the teenager is going through.
The Huaca has all of this, and more.
Marcia Mickelson manages to meet all the YA expectations, but mixes in some mystery and fantasy as well. From the opening sentence (“The snow makes everything clean again.”)to the hopeful ending, Mickelson grabs my attention and piques my interest on every page. I did not want to put this book down.
The story: Ellie Cummings’ mother was murdered. The killer never caught. Ellie’s best friend Sarah is no longer speaking to Ellie as Ellie ratted out Sarah’s boyfriend. Ellie is now very alone, despite a kind-hearted father who dotes on her. Enter Gabe de la Cruz, the student picked on by Sarah’s boyfriend, and who has apparently had a crush on Ellie for some time. Gabe happens to be a bit of an expert on the Inca civilization … a topic that Ellie needs to do a report on. Gabe helps Ellie out in her homework, but has a special Incan device he shares with Ellie. The device allows Ellie to to visit her dead mother in a different plane of reality. From her dead mother, Ellie learns some secrets that maybe would have been best left secret. Then a race is on to uncover Ellie’s mother’s murderer before Ellie becomes the next victim.
The writing is crisp and easy, and Mickelson builds on her plot masterfully, keeping the reader interested.
All is not well, however. I do have a couple of small complaints about the book.
First, there is the title. The Huaca. Really? I would think that the publisher would have to do a pretty vigorous ad campaign to sell this book to its intended target…teenage girls. There is nothing in this title (or the currently available cover art) to suggest it is a book of tragedy, mystery and romance. And while the huaca does play a role in the book, one could just as easily call this book Lasagna for the role the pasta dish plays.
Secondly, there are subplots mentioned, or touched upon, that don’t play much role in the book, other than as a springboard for action, but which leave us with un-answered questions. Still, it is a YA book, and once the teenage protagonist has moved on and forgotten about the events of the sub-plot, it is no longer important for us, the reader, to think about the events as well.
I enjoyed this YA book much much more than I was expecting, and certainly more than most other YA books I’ve read, including some that have won literary prizes. Don’t be fooled by the title…this book will definitely keep you reading.
Looking for a good book? This is very good Young Adult.
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author: Marcia Mickelson
publisher: Cedar Fort, Inc.
paperback, 256 pages