by Jennifer E. Smith
First sentence: “Only Ruby knew about the stranger in the barn.”
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Twelve-year-old Ruby and her twin brother Simon are trying to get used to living on 10 acres in Wisconsin rather than a suburban Chicago home. Sure, it’s been a bit more than a year since they moved — in order for their parents to pursue their inventing/artistic dreams — but it still doesn’t really feel like home. Especially this summer, when it’s so hot, without any rain, and the crops are withering. (Talk it the hand: I feel your pain! Summers in Kansas ain’t no picnic.)
Then Weird Stuff begins to happen to Simon. Or because of Simon: a rainstorm. A freak electrical shock. And a couple of strangers turn up (one nice, one not-so) to tell Simon that he has Special Powers, that he’s a part of an exclusive club: the Storm Makers.
So far, so good, right? I did like Smith’s play on the whole global warming/changing weather thing. And if you’ve been paying attention the past few years, she worked several major disasters into her story linnke, And I did like the neat twist near the end. But, overall, I didn’t feel this one held together. Mostly because it kind of felt like Savvy, but not as cool. And the “bad” guy was kind of wimpy; I never truly got the sense that he was All That and then some. Sure, yeah, I was told he was, but I just didn’t feel it. And while I liked Ruby — from whose point of view it was told — I never got a handle on Simon, either. Since he was half the whole twin thing, I felt like I should have gotten to know him at least a little better.
It wasn’t bad. But it wasn’t really great, either.
(Just for the record: because this is a Cybils nominee, I’ve been asked to make sure y’all know this is my opinion only, and not that of the panel.)