Weave a Circle Round: A Review

cover art for Weave a Circle Round by Kari MaarenFourteen-year-old Freddy just wants to be normal. She wants to blend in at her high school and disappear. But that’s hard when her step-brother Roland is always telling outlandish stories and leaves a trail of chaos in his wake despite his best efforts. Meanwhile her little sister Mel is like an amateur detective.

Freddy’s mother and step-father are so wrapped up in each other they hardly notice. And it’s not like they can force Freddy to like her siblings anymore than they can force her to learn sign language so she can talk more with Roland.

It becomes even harder to pretend everything is normal when new tenants move into the house on Grosvenor Street–hardly a surprise since the house always seems to be in a state of flux.

Cuerva Lachance and Josiah aren’t like any of the people who have previously rented the house on Grosvenor street. In fact, based on the way the house begins to defy the laws of physics, they may not even be people in Weave a Circle Round (2017) Kari Maaren.

Maaren’s debut standalone is an intentionally chaotic and frenetic novel about time travel, family, and the power of story and talismans. Maaren pulls intricate plot threads together to create a story with eclectic characters and detailed world building.

Because of Freddy’s age and the overall tone of the novel, Weave a Circle Round feels much younger than marketing would suggest–something not helped by flat and often one-dimensional characters. I’d put this book much more firmly in the middle grade category than YA were it left to my own devices.

While I’d love to give Weave a Circle Round points for inclusion, I can’t. Every synopsis I found for this novel describes Freddy’s sister Mel as smart and Roland as . . . deaf. That’s it. He gets no other defining attribute despite being one of the more layered characters in the novel not to mention being key to the plot.

Roland’s deafness feels more like a plot device than a key trait and is only ever seen in relation to Freddy. Freddy finds Roland tedious. She doesn’t want to interact with him or learn sign language to talk to him. She has to get over that to move the plot forward. Bizarrely Roland talks throughout the book with only minimal mention of sign language at all. He also falls into the common trap of being a super lip reader carrying entire conversations with multiple people without signing at all.

Weave a Circle Round is likely to appeal to fans of A Wrinkle in Time and books in that vein. Unfortunately this story never quite realizes its potential or does right by its characters–especially Roland.

Possible Pairings: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, Alchemy by Margaret Mahy, In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan, Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor

Missing Abby: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Missing Abby by Lee WeatherlyAbby is missing long before she disappears at the beginning of Missing Abby (2006) by Lee Weatherly. Narrated by Abby’s former-best-friend, Emma, the plot examines how their friendship deteriorated in the past while looking at the events surrounding Abby’s disappearance in the present.

This novel, Weatherly’s second, uses Abby’s disappearance to tell Emma’s story. The novel is told in chapters, one for each day after Abby is reported missing. As the story moves farther away from that day, the focus shifts from wondering what happened to Abby as readers begin to wonder what happened between the two girls. Because at thirteen, they are still girls–a fact that is not always obvious from the narration that seems to sound more like the voice of a seventeen-year-old.

Through a strange coincidence, Emma is the last person to see Abby before she gets off a local bus and vanishes. When Emma has to report everything she remembers about that day to the police she also starts to remember their old friendship. Anger often flares up through the worry Emma shows for Abby. Weatherly handles these conflicting emotions well, her narration making it clear that Abby is missed even while Emma is still angry with her.

Just why Emma is so angry at Abby is not clear until the last half of the story. Her reasons for ending the friendship are revealed in dribs and drabs that interrupt the regular narrative: “Freak. The word slithered into my mind, breaking the spell.” Through these fragments readers can piece the girls’ back-story together before Emma reveals the finer details.

Weatherly maintains a level of suspense throughout the story as Emma and Abby’s friends try to learn what happened to her. Emma’s cryptic references to “Balden” and “Karen Stipp” also draw readers further into Emma and Abby’s past. At the same time, the plot remains necessarily one-sided as Abby never gets the chance to tell her experiences.

I really like the message of this story. How, interestingly, it is only after Abby goes missing that Emma is able to realize how precious Abby was as a friend and subsequently find herself again. The writing only falters at the end, where Weatherly seems desperate to neatly tie up the loose ends of a story that was never clear-cut or neat.

As readers my have guessed, this book doesn’t end on an entirely up note. But if you can handle a slightly sad read, give it a try. Also, on a totally shallow level, I absolutely love the cover art on the hardcover edition of this book. The illustration is beautiful and is the main reason I became interested enough in this book to pick it up.

Possible Pairings: The Alison Rules by Catherine Clark, Alter Ego by Robbie Cooper, Boy Proof by Cecil Castellucci, Dramacon by Svetlana Chmakova, The Night She Disappeared by April Henry, This Raging Light by Estelle Laure, I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest, Heir Apparent by Vivian Vande Velde