Booklist starred (February 1, 2012 (Vol. 108, No. 11))
Grades 4-7. Small, wild, and stubborn, 12-year-old Roo keeps her emotions close, and she prefers the constants of the natural world to the transience of people. When her drug-dealer father and his girlfriend are killed, she is sent to live with an unknown uncle in his isolated, cold island home. There Roo’s explorations uncover mysteries—an intriguing boy with unique ties to the sea; an elusive humming sound; a long-dead, walled-off garden; and, surprisingly, a frail, petulant cousin named Phillip. Secrets unfold, as do revelations about the power of compassion, as well as how relationships—between past and present and people and nature—matter. As such connections are made, Roo finds a sense of belonging. Inspired by Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden, this noteworthy novel stands wholly on its own, as Potter, with classic and contemporary storytelling flair, deftly interweaves fantasy, mystery, suspense, and realism. Beautifully wrought, eloquent prose combines with vivid setting details and diversely drawn characters to affectingly portray themes of loneliness and grief. Roo is a memorable character—her experiences prove transformative in unexpected ways, and ultimately her complexities and growth ring true. Poignant without sentimentality, this is a compelling read that is certain to resonate—and linger—with young readers.