A year ago I reviewed Driver’s first book in her new Young Adult series, Cry of The Sea. Juniper (June) Sawfeather is a girl of Native American descent who has environmental activists for parents who have tried to push their ideals on her. Though she respects and appreciates their concerns and the environment, she doesn’t want to be an activist, she just wants to live a normal life.
However, while visiting the forest site where her parents are protesting the deforestation of Old Growth trees, she makes a connection to a spirit within one such tree. She finds herself an unwilling activist, held captive 170 feet up in the tree by the spirit that inhabits it. From her location she must try to solve the mystery of who or what the spirit is and what it wants, while trying to navigate her relationships with her boyfriend, her parents, and negotiate with those that want to cut the tree down.
This time round, rather than being a J. K. Rowling and just rehashing the same plot over and over, Driver delivers something quite different, while retaining the elements that made the previous book enjoyable. Where Cry of The Sea was somewhat of a corporate thriller, Whisper of The Woods is a paranormal mystery.
The best scenes of tension in films and books are characters in isolated situations, and throughout this story June is cut off from the world physically and emotionally, and is forced to seek comfort inside herself. The themes from the previous book are still present – parental expectation, cultural acceptance, environmentalism – and rather than rehashing these, Driver has aged them in line with the character, still being relevant without being repetitive.
The greatest strength, perhaps, lies in the fact that this book deals with the repercussions of the first book. June and her parents are considered frauds and their reputations are mud, people believing the mermaids from the first book to be a big hoax in order to acheive more attention for their cause. Ironically, this may also be the biggest let down of the book, as I was constantly distracted wondering about the gap between books. I would have loved to have read more about this – a whole first third of the novel could have been dedicated to this idea, which would have fleshed out the way it came into play in Whisper.
Otherwise, it was a great read and was rich in metaphor. The tree was a perfect reflection of growth and crossing the threshold into adulthood. As June grew as a character, she found herself higher in the tree, until eventually, near its apex, she was at the peak of her womanhood – as beautiful and vast as it is uncertain and unpredictable. As a teen novel, the tree was also a perfect representation of the way every teen feels isolated from the world, and even from themselves, and appeals to the adolescent view they are equal parts hero and damsel in distress, while appealing to the view that the world revolves around them.
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