Ever since her family’s move to Four Points, Alma has spent her time between home, school, and her parents’ work – after all, anything unexpected could trigger one of her episodes. But when she spots a falling Starling through the quintescope that the mysterious ShopKeeper gave her, she knows she has to help. Together with her new friends, Alma must return the Starling to the sky… before it’s too late.
Alma meant a lot to me as someone who struggles with anxiety. I know younger readers with anxiety or panic disorders will feel the same. The author handled her mental illness beautifully. Her anxiety and panic attacks aren’t magical, they’re treated as they are – difficult and painfully debilitating – and are written in a way I personally could relate to. I especially appreciated the depiction of Alma’s parents’ attitude about her “episodes;” she worries how they would react if they knew she was still having panic attacks, and for good reason! Both of her parents act like she should just try harder to adjust to her new life and make friends. Of course, it’s not that easy. I think it’s important for kids to see that parents who say those kinds of things may do so because they don’t understand what they’re going through.
As for the rest of the story, I found it absolutely magical. There was a really lovely balance of science and alchemy, realism and fantasy. All of the characters were truly well-written and understandable. I loved how all of the children who felt strange or out of place with others found a comfortable friendship in each other. Quintessence was a fantastic read that I hope readers of all ages can enjoy.
Yours in love and literature,
Content warning(s): panic attacks, anxiety, burns, bullying
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