The Many Lives of John Stone

544p. ebook available. S. & S. Oct. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481426374.
Gr 9 Up—British teen Stella "Spark" Park's chance meeting with her brother's benefactor, John Stone, proves life-altering for both the enigmatic philanthropist and Spark. Taking a job at Stone's estate organizing his archives, Spark alternately befriends and avoids Stowney House's two extremely old-fashioned inhabitants: motherly Martha and ornery Jacob. Despite Spark's crucial role in this tale, the focus is on the titular John Stone, or Jean-Pierre, as he was known when he attended Louis XIV in Versailles. Via journal entries, readers (and ultimately Spark) learn that Stone is over three centuries old: a "sempervivens." Not immortal or vampiric, his secret race is gifted with longevity. In a bittersweet twist, Spark's own secret makes her the now-ailing Stone's reason for living. Conjuring prose; a steady, engrossing pace; believable conflict relating to both families' complexities; and the dangers technology poses to an individual's privacy make this an engrossing title for teens. While there's romance, it is refreshingly overshadowed by the love among family. Rich in historical detail and subtly supernatural yet ultimately relatable, this affecting, intelligent tale addresses themes of forging one's own identity, finding one's niche, and discovering what it means to truly live.
VERDICT A must-purchase for libraries with discerning teen readers preferring substance to silliness.

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