Raised in a shelter cloister with other young women, Delphernia Undersea is a 12-year-old Turnaway Girl: girls raised to be silent, invisible; to weave male Masters’ music into gold they call “shimmmer”. Delphina is well aware of her place in society – Mother Nine beats it into her regularly enough – but still has a rebellious streak in her. While she can’t make shimmer, she can sing; a forbidden action in this world. Girls are told that the sea waits to swallow girls with musical throats, but Delphernia must sing, so she does so in secret until the day a young Master named Bly comes to claim her. Once out of the cloister, Delphernia’s world opens up, befriending a trans girl named Linna, who calls herself a Master and wears a dress covered in bells. Delphernia spends time with Bly, discovering more about him and his sister, the Childer-Queen, and in so doing, discovers more about herself and the society she moves through. It’s time for rebellion, and Delphernia holds the key.
Wow. This book is high literary fantasy that has the gift of empowering readers. Delphernia is a strong, intelligent heroine who motivates those around her. This is a male-driven society that doesn’t want music, free thought, or questions. They twist the truth to suit their means, but this next generation of children is about to bring it all down. Hayley Chewins’ weaves gold – shimmer – with words that nearly brought me to tears as I read. I was Facebooking and texting passages from this book to my friends, family, and coworkers over the last two days, because I could not keep these words inside me.
This is how you talk to middle graders. This is how you write middle grade fantasy that makes a statement, always respecting your readers. This is fantasy that holds our society up to a mirror and lets readers see for themselves how change is theirs to make. Diverse and gender fluid characters, discussions about gender roles and corrupt leaders, and a tale of self-discovery, magic, and music put this firmly on my must-read, must-have list, and my Newbery and Hugo watch lists.
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Blog Tour Roll Call! Visit these book bloggers for their The Turnaway Girl thoughts.
October 8 – Purple Readers
October 9 – YA Books Central
October 10 – Cheyenne Reads
October 11 – Mom Read It
October 12 – Wizard Library
The Turnaway Girls, by Hayley Chewins, (Sept. 2018, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9780763697921