“When Sophie Ballester and her twin brothers, Sam and Todd, are uprooted from their home and sent to a remote boarding school run by their Great Aunt Ness, they stumble upon a hidden room that holds a secret—a secret that will change everything. The people of Phoenix Holt are not what they seem. In fact, nothing is.”
Phoenix Holt is a fast paced, plot driven novel for young adults. Lepore’s style of writing is witty and humorous without losing touch with her YA audience. She has a talent for creating believable dialogue that will engage any reader. The premise of the town, Phoenix Holt, is interesting and her characters are very accessible. Sophie, the main character, faces change and challenge with an abundance of hope, and her bright eyes are definitely a reflection of the light she exudes amongst a crowd of doubters.
My rating: 3/5 (a good read)
Favorite Character: I love Sam, one of Sophie’s twin brothers, because he is guided by honesty and has a hunger for truth. I also have a soft spot for rambunctious personalities.
Favorite “Darling”: The brass colored eyes of the Ballesters. I wish there could have been some kind of elaboration on this, or some reason it was a point of fixation in the author’s description. It conjured a great fantasy trait in my mind and I loved it.
I would recommend this to: Children and teens between 10-16. I am going to recommend this to a personal friend who reads chapter novels to her daughter. They are currently reading A Wrinkle In Time together and I think the adventurous, light plot will be appealing.
CONTAINS SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT.
From a writer’s point of view: The relationship between Sophie and Jaxon is both sweet and profound. Though both have a damaging opinion of who/what they are, they display an unbiased affection for one another. Jaxon is so conditioned to believe he is without human quality that he allows his sufferance to consume him and even inspires the elders to think the same. It is Sophie’s unmovable vision of his true essence that suggests a change in himself and those around him. Segregating a person for being different is a relevant theme with modern youths, and one I feel cannot be expressed enough (even to adults).
Another idea I found provoking, though it was only brushed against, was the author’s philosophy about envy and the power it holds over our human experience. The snarling, dark monsters that make a brief appearance in the plot feed and gain power from envious people (which she also describes as “the weak ones”). Again, this is another great idea to create conversation with young teens. Sophie’s brother, Todd, was our example in Phoenix Holt.
Todd was envious of Sam’s popularity and dominant personality, feeling inferior to his twin brother. He blames Sam for making him the lesser twin. This is an idea that I feel is important to bring up to young people. Instead of focusing on why he thought Sam was better than him, perhaps Todd could have remembered all the great things about himself (like his love of astronomy, or his quiet observance). Todd allowed himself to accept hurtful words as truth and let his idea of what’s “better” dictate his self-judgement. It is so important to teach childern to be kind to themselves as well as others.
I do wish I could have a better understanding about why the Ballesters were different than the other three witches that survived the Divellion attack. I also wish the reveal of their witch identity had been a little more climactic. Although, I didn’t mind the feeling that their witch identity was used as a catalyst to explain Jaxon’s secret phoenix identity. I found him to be an extremely interesting character and I selfishly wished there was more to learn about his power and the turmoil it stirred in him. These opinions only stem from a desire to know more, which I think is always good.
Overall, an enjoyable read that is well suited for a younger reader. Curious to know more? Please visit Gabriella’s site for purchase options and more.