Thirteen-year-old Ali Warner has it tough. Her mother died a year ago in a car accident, and her truck-driving father can't understand his teenage daughter's needs. Her friends still act a little weird around her, and her refuge, the mountainous forest just out of town, is about to be destroyed by loggers.
Determined to do something, Ali plans a protest against the deforestation, but her day in the woods gets weirder than she could have imagined. She discovers the forest harbors a secret, a portal to the world of fairya world in which she is Queen. With a couple of doubtful friends, a leprechaun and a troll, Ali sets out to reclaim her birthright and save the world from an invasion of dark magic.
The young characters feel a little off. Their language and thought processes will likely ring false to real teens. It's hard to imagine any 13-year-old girl, reincarnated fairy queen or not, saying "you poor dear."
Plus, Ali is almost killed and discovers Fairyland in the same day; one would expect her to be at least a little shaken by the experience. Her friends easily accept her story and are too eager to risk their own lives, while the adults in the tale are clueless stereotypes.
Still, young girls will thrill to Ali's discovery. Who hasn't dreamed of being a fairy princess? And there's plenty of excitement and derring-do from this unlikely group of heroes to hold interest, as well as provide a decent setup for the inevitable sequel. (Jul., 304 pp., $18.95)
Jen Talley Exum