Thursday, September 5, 2019

Book Review: 'The Fountain' by Suzy Vadori

Canadian author Suzy Vadori writes for the Young Adults audience. She is employed as an Operations Executive and is an involved member of the Calgary Writers' community, serving as When Words Collide (a Calgary Festival for Readers and Writers) Program Manager for Middle Grade and Young Adults. Her evenings are her hours for exploring her passion for writing Young Adult novels, of which THE FOUNTAIN was her debut novel published in 2015. She lives in Calgary, Alberta.

Suzy sets a fine tone and atmosphere for her mystery fantasy in her surprisingly revealing first page – ‘“I’m terrified of expulsion,” Ava hissed at Ethan, “but this isn’t negotiable. Go back if you’re scared. I never asked you to come.” Ava turned her back, blinking to clear his cowed expression from her sight. She pushed deeper into the dark of the West Woods, walking as quickly as she dared, pushing branches aside that blocked the path as she went. The fountain waited out there, and it was getting late. The sooner she undid her wish, the sooner everything could go back to the way it was supposed to be. She could tell by the sound of footsteps that Ethan followed, though he seemed to be keeping his distance. Gritting her teeth, she wished she’d brought her phone. The thin beam from Ethan’s flashlight, shining from behind, wasn’t strong enough to show the roots that lay ahead in her path. Turning toward him, she waited. Despite his teasing, she was really glad he was here. She looked at him smiling awkwardly at her through the gloom as he approached. Her own thin smile felt forced. They’d be missed by now. The New England wind found the holes in the weave of her sweater, sending a chill up her back. I wish to undo the wish I made here on September 14th that made Courtney disappear. I wish to undo the wish I made here on September 14th that made Courtney disappear. Ava fiddled with the coin in her sweater pocket, shivering against the cold. The fountain had already granted her one wish. She needed it to work again. She watched as Ethan sidestepped the roots at his feet. His ball cap hid the coal-black shock of hair she’d grown used to. His dark eyes met hers from beneath the veil of his cap. Did he want to believe her story as much as she wanted him to? Averting her eyes to watch her feet, she continued along the path. Ethan walked easily beside her. Ava heard her own breath rise and fall. Ethan’s hand nearly brushed hers as they walked, the narrow path pushing them together. Ava flexed her fingers, toward the heat of his hand. One slight move and she could clasp the security that he offered. Could it really be that simple? “We’re almost there,” Ava announced, her voice breaking a little. She cleared her throat and took a small step sideways, away from him on the path. She noticed him withdraw, stuffing the hand she’d almost grabbed into his jeans pocket. Ava felt a sinking feeling. She couldn’t leave St. Augustus yet. There was so much she needed to explore. She’d managed to lead Ethan right into the clearing. The beam from his flashlight shone before them in a wide arc. Ava dropped the coin she’d been fiddling with, her hand hanging slack at her side. The coin sank into the long grass at her feet without making a sound. The clearing blurred in front of her. She felt Ethan move quickly, his warm arm suddenly pressed against her waist, keeping her from collapsing onto the ground. Ava reeled. This was definitely the clearing where she’d made her wish. So, where was the fountain?’

This is a daring technique but one that works very well indeed for this fine book. The plot synopsis hints at the mystery – ‘Careful what you wish for. It just might come true. Ava Marshall, driven by a desire to learn more about her mother's past, moved across the country to attend St. Augustus. But her mom’s secrets will have to wait, because she finds herself instantly hated for her family’s connection to her new school and is forced to fight alone against a classmate who is setting Ava up to be expelled. Fleeing campus, she takes a shortcut to her Gran’s house through the forbidden West Woods and discovers a mysterious fountain that has the power to grant a wish and change it all. But can she live with the consequences? Or will she end up breaking every school rule and risking the love of her life to make it right…’

Exceptionally fine writing from a polished hand and mind that embraces fantasy. Watching future novels by Suzy Vadori will likely prove she has staying power. Grady Harp, June 18
I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book.

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.