Juniper Sawfeather seems to have a talent for finding mythological creatures. Or maybe the creatures are finding her.
The mermaids she saved from the oil spill are long gone. There’s no evidence of them, and she’s been branded as a liar and a fake in the media and at school. Her environmental activist parents have moved on to a protest to save Old Growth trees from being chopped down. June isn’t particularly concerned with this cause, but that changes when she falls asleep at the base of a giant tree and wakes to find herself 40 feet in the air on one of its branches!
From this point on she becomes obsessed with the tree, and it appears the tree is becoming obsessed with her too. Soon, she is trapped 170 feet above the ground, and the magical spirit that resides in the tree isn’t interested in letting her go free or allowing anyone else to save her. Is the tree spirit good or evil? Will Juniper’s feet ever touch the ground again?
The second book in the Juniper Sawfeather trilogy is just as good as the first, if slightly different in tone. In this book, Juniper has already met one supernatural creature – the mermaid – and is slightly unsure weather that was a one-off or if there is more out there.
Then she hears a giant tree speak to her, and she decides she needs to get to the bottom of this.
On the one hand, I was dissapointed that the mermaids have dissapeared again after the last book and that Juniper is now a bit of an outcast, but on the other hand it does create a compelling mystery – where did the mermaids go? And while this book with it’s giant tree might seem far removed from mermaids and the sea, they are still everywhere in it. They occupy both the main character’s thoughts, and they are also linked to the giant tree through a mysterious ancient native american legend.
Now, when I read a novel summary that tells me about an ‘ancient native american legend’, I usually groan out loud. Most writers have no idea how to pull off native inspired stuff, and they tend to rely too heavily on insulting mysticism. But this book is very delicate on it’s treatment of the subject matter. All of the characters are rounded people, and those characaters who live on the reserve (or come from it, in the case of Juniper’s father) have varied motivations that reflect real world concerns. Should they cut the giant trees to make money that the reservation need, or should they preserve this heritage? Once again, D.G Driver has shown that she can take complicated issues and write them well in a YA novel.
She also continues being on the nose with the teenage stuff. At some points, Juniper’s experiences with her peers were so close to my real life experiences that I wanted to shake the author by the shoulders and tell her to cut it out! After the whole mermaid debacle in the last book, everyone now thinks that Juniper made up the whole story for attention. Her best friend is torn between being popular (and hanging out with people who don’t really care about her all that much) or having Juniper’s back. She tries to do both, but alas at some point she has to make a decision. Juniper’s boyfriend, on the other hand, is at the well-known point just after high school where you do not want to hear about high school stuff ever again, and several of Juniper’s classmates are either making fun of her or straight up bullying her, including a dude who works for the school paper and thinks the whole thing is a riot.
For a book that mostly happens in one location (stuck at the top of a tree) and in the span of a few days, Whisper of the Woods has a lot of action going on and allows up to dig just a little deeper into the minds of the characters.
All in all, it is a refreshing book, and one that I will recommend to the teenagers in my life.
Plus the cover is really pretty.
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