One of the things I love about the CBCA shortlist is that, each year, it encourages me to read books that I may not have taken the time to get to otherwise.
A Single Stone is one of those books that I’m delighted to have taken the time to discover.
Every girl dreams of being part of the line – the chosen seven who tunnel deep into the mountain to find the harvest. No work is more important.
Jena is the leader of the line – strong, respected, reliable. And – as all girls must be – she is small; years of training have seen to that. It is not always easy but it is the way of things. And so a girl must wrap her limbs, lie still, deny herself a second bowl of stew. Or a first.
But what happens when one tiny discovery makes Jena question the world she knows? What happens when moving a single stone changes everything?
McKinlay’s writing, though wowed me from start to finish.
I almost felt suffocated by claustrophobia as she described the girls tunnelling for mica in the first few pages.
And I immediately felt an affinity for her practical, thoughtful protagonist, Jena.
This is not a YA novel full of teen angst and teen issues (those stories are great for teens and those still in touch with our inner teen).
A Single Stone is much, much more than that. It is an engaging, engrossing novel with the universal themes of belonging and personal self discovery.
McKinlay has created a rich, believable post-disaster community doing what they have to, to survive the new conditions in which they now find themselves.
The ending was satisfying and felt right within the context of the story. Personally I would have enjoyed a little more dramatic tension and conflict around the role of the Mothers and the belief that the mountain was somehow giving advise and directives.
Both these points (societal conformity vs personal responsibility and our belief systems) would make for fabulous class discussions and McKinlay does provides plenty of provocations around these ideas to promote a healthy debate.
By the end, I realised that A Single Stone was more of a mature junior fiction book than a YA story.
Therefore I highly recommended it to 10+ readers and all lovers of a satisfying, well-written story.