It starts with my family, and in a way, that’s the whole story.
There’s my mother, Zambia. You probably won’t have heard of her. She’s the artist, Zambia Whitestarr. then there’s my da, Macoll Whitestarr. His stage name is Mac and he’s the lead guitarist in a band you’ve probably never heard of that plays a lot of improvised music. Then there’s us kids: my older brother Jesse; my older sister Mirandah; me, Alyzon; Serenity, who tries to make us call her Sybl; and last but not least our baby brother, Luke.
Alyzon is the middle child in a loving, chaotic, eccentic family. She goes to school, fights with her sisters, looks after her baby brother. Pretty normal, more or less. Until she suffers a freak accident. As she recovers she realises that all her senses are now super-tuned to the spoken and unspoken wants, joys and fears of others. She also discovers a rottenness, a horrible wrongness in some people. After initial confusion, she begins to work out how to protect herself from the intensity of other people’s emotions. But it’s not enough, as the wrongness seems to close in on her and her world, to just protect herself. She needs to know why it exists and how she can protect those she loves.
Alyzon Whitestarr was first released in 2005 by Penguin Books and this new, re-edited, re-jacketed edition is published by Ford Street Publishing. Alyzon is a fabulous protagonist, telling her own story as she tries to understand her world through the lens of her expanded senses. This is a fantasy set in the contemporary world, and explores family, friendship, attraction, trust, betrayal, protection, responsibility and power. It’s a big read at 601 pages but the length is hardly noticeable in this compelling and well-crafted story. Alyzon Whitestarr is a stand-alone novel and an ideal introduction to long-form fantasy for mature upper-primary readers but will also be enjoyed by older readers.
Alyzon Whitestarr, Isobelle Carmody
Ford Street Publishing 2016
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller