Published: September 2013
Genre: young adult, historical fiction
Four years ago, Judith and her best friend disappeared from their small town of Roswell Station. Two years ago, only Judith returned, permanently mutilated, reviled and ignored by those who were once her friends and family. Unable to speak, Judith lives like a ghost in her own home, silently pouring out her thoughts to the boy who’s owned her heart as long as she can remember—even if he doesn’t know it—her childhood friend, Lucas. But when Roswell Station is attacked, long-buried secrets come to light, and Judith is forced to choose: continue to live in silence, or recover her voice, even if it means changing her world, and the lives around her, forever.
Two years ago, Judith returned to her village after having disappeared without a trace. At first her friends and family were relieved of her appearance, but when they realized her tongue had been cut and she was made a mute, they begin to turn their backs on her. But after an attack on her village stirs up questions about her past and the boy she’s in love with, she is faced with a life-changing decision: remain mute about her experience in the woods, or speak the truth and change everyone’s lives.
Berry uses a very unique technique in her writing: not only is the entire story told in second person — Julie’s thoughts are all directed at Lucas, the boy she loves — but it’s also fragmented. It’s just like reading thoughts, rather than reading a standard plot. It adds a whole new dimension to the story. The twists at the end — who captured Judith, what happened while she disappeared, what really happened to her friend, what happened at the battle at the beginning of the book — is so unexpected it made the entire experience worth the read.
However, I’ll admit that what prevented me from giving this a higher rating is the mysterious setting. It bothered me throughout the novel that I could not place the location and time. It felt anywhere between 1650s, with the Puritans and their rigid society, and early 1800s, with the remote village setting and strong sense of community (like the Western frontier) over business (like the East). I asked the author if Roswell was the city in New Mexico, and if it was set in 1850s (settlers from Missouri set up in Roswell, NM around that time), and she said it’s not New Mexico and not 1850s, but the 17th century. Now, all of this would have been fine as an answer, but there were elements that just didn’t seem to work. Where were the Native Americans? Who were the homelanders? Why are they fighting battles? Why isn’t God a more prominent aspect in their society? Why does the clothing sound wrong for that time period? Some bits and pieces of this novel felt extremely anachronistic, and a part of it is because the time is never specified, nor is the place. I began to wonder if this was like The Village movie, because things just seemed off.
I’m of the camp that thinks it’s incredibly important to give a time and place for your readers, fantasy or contemporary or historical fiction. Some sort of indicator needs to be addressed — it doesn’t need to be spelled out blatantly, but it does need context clues. All the clues we are given in this book point in different directions. Apart from this confusion, this story about a mute, about right and wrong, about captivity and abuse, was worth the read.