Roland has everything a young man could wish for -- good looks, enough money, a cool relationship with his mother, ready wit, intelligence, a sexy girlfriend, a perfect school record. So the fact that he committed a petty crime and that, somehow, one of his teachers knows about it is something he can hardly explain to himself, let alone anyone else. The teacher, Mr Hudson, uses this knowledge to blackmail Roland into befriending the school misfit -- Jess Ferret. The reason he gives is concern for her wellbeing, but even Roland finds this rather far-fetched. And when Jess doesn't respond to his confident advances, he becomes intrigued with the girl for his own reasons. Roland discovers Jess's dark secret and also finds that he has one of his own…
Winner of New Zealand Post Children's Book Award: Senior Fiction 2003.
Grade 8 Up-This book can be read on several levels. As a story of magical powers, alchemy, and spirits, it may attract readers looking for a suspenseful thriller. But it can also be read as a metaphor, cautioning of the dangers of denying one's true self. Outwardly, Roland, 17, appears to have everything-popularity, good grades, and a terrific girlfriend. But he also has a strange, recurring dream and hears inner voices warning him away from something he does not understand. Then, inexplicably, he shoplifts some inconsequential items from a local store. A teacher confronts him with his crime and makes an odd proposal: he will tell no one of the incident if Roland will find out what is going on in the life of classmate Jess Ferret. As Roland begins to investigate her, he learns that his terrifying dream is actually a memory, his shoplifting an act beyond his control. He meets Quando, the magician from his dream and, not coincidentally, his teacher's brother. Jess is not what she has appeared to be, and she sees that sinister forces are endangering Roland, and herself as well. The story becomes a battle between good and evil as Quando greedily seeks to steal the teens' powers. The idea that love and hate can release powerful energy to move the universe for good or ill is presented in a unique yet understandable way. The closing struggle leads too quickly to the resolution of several long-standing problems but the outcomes will satisfy readers looking for a hopeful ending. This is not a book that will attract a wide readership, but it deserves a place on library shelves for those teens who are willing to look beyond the surface and delve a little deeper. School Library journal
Margaret Mahy was born in New Zealand and has loved telling stories all her life. She is acknowledged all over the world as one of the outstanding children's writers of today, and has published over 200 titles. Twice winner of the Carnegie Medal (The Haunting, 1982, and The Changeover, 1984), several of her titles have become modern classics. Other major awards include The Order of New Zealand, for her contribution to children's literature, and the Hans Christian Andersen medal, which is the highest international recognition granted to authors and illustrators of children's books. Margaret lives in the South Island of New Zealand, in a house which she partially built herself, overlooking Governor's Bay.