by Hope Larson (Atheneum, 2010)
Hope Larson, illustrator of Wrinkle in Time , pens her own story in Mercury, an across-time ghost story about ancestors, talismanic heirlooms and hidden treasure.
Sixteen-year-old Tara Fraser lives in present-day Nova Scotia with her aunt and uncle while she waits for her mother to get a permanent job. The family home having burned to the ground and her father having long since left the picture, Tara is looking for a solid life. She returned to the school district she once attended after two years of home-schooling, and quickly finds romance, friendship and a bit of treasure hunting.
In a running-parallel kind of way is the story of her ancestor, Josey Fraser, a sheltered girl who lived on a farm in 1859, in the same location as the home that went up in flames. Like Tara, Josey's family is struggling for money. One day a handsome, enigmatic young man named Asa arrives, claiming to be able to find gold on their land through means of a divining necklace. Hoping to bring his family out of poverty, Josey's father agrees to work alongside Asa. Attractive as Asa is, there's something about him that's not quite right. As it turns out, there is indeed darkness in him.
In the present day, Tara's relatives, in an attempt to cheer her up, give her a pendant that used to belong to her mother. Every time Tara wears it, she is guided to her heart's desire. Of course it's the same divination necklace that Asa used to find gold. The necklace holds the key to what happened to Josey's father, as well as possibly helping Tara in the present.
The story builds slowly, the two narratives brilliantly intertwined until, at the end, they come together in a crescendo of action. The manga-influenced artwork is gorgeous, with strong lines and black background vs. white background (in each story), which made the distinctions between the stories even sharper. Mercury is an excellent blend of history, family, romance and magic, with a neat ending. The two girls are very different people but similar in beings secret romantics who happen to be mixed up together due to the magical properties of a pendant and their respective crushes on cute boys. Teenage love was never more adorable.
Nova Scotia comes across as a place rich in myth. Larson's art is great. Each story stands strongly on its own. There are real world issues such as family tension, financial problems, and social clumsiness, all very well represented. Overall Mercury is a terrifically fun little story, perfect for mid-grade or for anyone who is looking to dive into graphic novels and needs a good place to start.
16 July 2016
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