Arlo Finch in the Valley of Fire
Things work a little differently in the small, secluded town of Pine Mountain, Colorado. Magic is real and our world is not the only one that exists.
Chicago...Philadelphia...12-year old Arlo Finch has been moving around a lot lately. His mother, 15-year old sister Jaycee, and him have sort of had to since their father was forced to leave the country, on the run from his own government for crimes his family knows he didn't commit. In Pine Mountain, Arlo and his family can find a safe place to live in the house his mother grew up in, with the mysterious uncle they've never met. There's no internet or cell service at Uncle Wade's house... and strange things seem to happen in Pine Mountain: a boy in his class is smothered in purple goo that rings like sleigh bells, his sister starts shaving her legs and having bizarre, nonsensical conversations on the telephone, and nobody seems to pay these things much mind. There are rumors of the mysterious Long Woods, stories of children gone missing, but when Arlo Finch is visited by a young girl from another world, he can't help but wonder, how does he fit in to the magical wonder and mystery of this place. Why him?
This is a tremendously fun fantasy adventure for teens and young adults, but also one I think anyone could enjoy. Arlo is brave and loyal, but also 12 years old, so it is fun to see the world through his eyes without ever feeling limited by Arlo's youth and innocence. This book is very funny, as we see Arlo try to come to grips with the very real bizarre nature of Pine Mountain and the perceived bizarreness of his sister going through the trials of being a teenager. It can be hilarious reading Arlo's literal inability to comprehend the idea that any boy would be willing to be his sister's boyfriend. And the supernatural connection between Arlo and this strange girl from another world was absolutely gripping to me and propelled me forward as I desperately wanted to know more about Arlo's connection to her and her mysterious world beyond our own.
Arlo Finch in the Valley of Fire is the debut effort from a prominent feature film writer, and the first in a scheduled trilogy, which I am eagerly anticipating the next book in the series.