Nola is bored, bored, bored of life on Alta Donna with her workaholic mother, absent father, and the boring, mean kids at school. Then one day she helps out a strange boy in her class, Damiano, and meets his even stranger sister Ines. They may be weird, but they're certainly exciting! Finally, things are happening on Alta Donna. Nola is getting exactly what she wished for...and she's not sure she likes it.
This story reminded me irresistibly of the movie The Cat Returns. Nola has a lot of similarities to Cat's main character - she's a dreamer, doesn't really fit in, and alternately sees life as a constant bystander or gets controlled by other people and her own emotions. There's not a lot of action in this first story, other than lots of chase scenes with no real objective. The mystery of Damiano and Ines is never solved, only more complicated by the end of the story.
There's an unmistakable foreign air to the story from the cotton candy hues of the art to the odd little touches of clothing, architecture, and more that clearly tell the reader this story is set in a different world. I did find the characters a little difficult to tell apart with the similar facial and hair structures and pastel coloring. The story was interesting, but didn't really start to move until close to the end. At which time it ended.
Verdict: Middle grade readers with the patience to work through the beginning of the story will be intrigued by the obvious fantasy/adventure set up. Readers who started off expected a typical school drama may be disappointed as the story rather abruptly shifts from reality (albeit a strange one) to fantasy. Buy at least the first three if you decide to add this one to your collection. I'll wait and see how well it circulates in neighboring libraries.
ISBN: 978-0-7613-6502-0; Published August 2010 by Lerner; Borrowed from the library.