The Call

320p. ebook available. Scholastic/David Fickling Bks. Sept. 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781338045611.
Gr 9 Up—Set in Ireland, this fantasy horror novel introduces readers to a freaky reality: at any given time, on any given day, a teen's world will go black, and when her senses return, she realizes she is naked and alone. She has been Called to the Grey Land. Nessa, a 14-year-old girl living with the aftereffects of polio, and her best friend Megan attend Boyle Survival College to prepare themselves for their Call. At this boarding school, they learn about the fairy enemies (the Sidhe, based on traditional Irish folklore) and practice survival and defensive techniques. The students who have lived through the Call return disfigured and emotionally broken, but it is through their accounts that others can prepare for the torture they face. Nessa works her hardest so that her limited mobility does not become a deterrent to her survival. Amid a colorful cast of supporting characters—including Anto, her pacifist love interest, and Connor, the egotistical bully—the dangers facing Nessa aren't limited to just those that await her in the Grey Land. The third-person narrative allows readers to identify with each of the characters. The Irish vernacular and vivid descriptions place teens in the heart of the island. Horror fans will love the grotesque world of Sidhe, where monsters and animals are made from twisted human bodies and body parts. Nessa is a resourceful character, often inventing creative ways to survive the same obstacles as her peers in order to prepare herself for the Call. The novel's strengths are its strong imagery and diverse cast of characters, who represent different ethnicities and sexual identities. However, the denouement is too quick and underdeveloped. The language, sex, violence, and world of the Grey Land are more appropriate for mature fantasy fans.
VERDICT For those craving a new Hunger Games-esque thriller.

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