Nothing says sisterhood quite like a magical set of abilities, and Haven’s Secret explores just that. From Supergirl’s Melissa Benoist, Jessica Benoist, and Mariko Tamaki comes the first book in a new middle-grade fantasy series. Ellie and Parker McFadden are twins, looking forward to celebrating their birthday as they do every year. This time, they’re whisked away to an isolated farm – Haven – where they learn about powers they inherited from their mother. Ellie is quick to adapt. Parker wants nothing more than to go home. Soon, they begin to unravel Haven’s secrets. But that’s only the beginning. The girls must learn to work together lest they succumb to the sinister force that destroyed their mother.
Style-wise, the authors write in a way that fits their target audience and engages them. First, the alternating third POVs give readers a chance to get inside both girls’ heads that still provides a rounded view of events. Despite the POV switches, the writing in general remains consistent from chapter to chapter. It’s gripping and easy to follow. I was also struck by how the authors describe the girls’ emotions and explain their powers. Rather than simply state facts, they take the time to fully realize everything. Every moment of excitement and hurt the girls experience spills off the page. The abilities are more than just abilities. They’re an essential part of the girls and become nearly tangible to readers. The authors immerse readers in the story by ensuring they really feel everything Ellie and Parker do.
Parker and Ellie and the Complexities of Sisterhood
Parker and Ellie may be twins, but that doesn’t mean they’re exactly alike. In fact, the two are quite different. Aside from Ellie and their father, Parker’s life revolves around ultimate frisbee and her best friend, Clara. She likes being a twin but wants to be viewed as her own, separate unit. Parker also struggles to accept their mother is dead. It creates a fear of abandonment as well as leads Parker to harbor a lot of anger.
Ellie, on the other hand, is more of a loner. Parker and their father are her world. She’s environmentally conscious and loves learning about nature. She approaches things with an open-minded sense of wonder. Ellie also enjoys being a twin but wishes she and Parker were closer. She’s fiercely compassionate and can accept the death of their mother more easily than Parker.
Speaking as someone with a sister (one who is the exact opposite of me), the authors absolutely nail the dynamic. Melissa and Jessica being part of the writing trio truly makes all the difference. No one set of sisters will have the same experiences as another. Regardless, there are consistent similarities in real life that are effortlessly illustrated throughout the book. Most prominently, the authors exemplify how sisterhood is never perfect. It’s clear Ellie and Parker love each other. They have their own rhythm. But they also argue and feel detached from each other at times. Not once does their relationship feel unnatural. It’s wholly authentic, imbued with the nuances every set of sisters will recognize and appreciate.
A Safe? Haven
Much of the story’s intrigue, of course, lies with Haven itself. (I mean, the book is titled Haven’s Secret.) Like Ellie and Parker, readers unfold Haven’s mysteries as they do. From its first mention, Haven – and its town of Bearsted – creates questions that keep the story moving as answers gradually come to light. Mabel and George – the girls’ great aunt and uncle – offer a few curious secrets of their own. Their quirky natures make them quickly likable, albeit with an underlying sense of uneasiness.
Beyond the mystery, the authors breathe such life into Haven. It’s a place, yes. But it also presents as a living entity. Readers see how Haven responds to both girls, reacting to the literal magic within them. On the flip side is the Danger – a negative force that, while more an unseen force, jumps out as a shadow-type monster. It feels just as tangible as any other person, place, or thing in the rest of the book.
A Must-Add for Every Reading List
Haven’s Secret heralds in an exciting new series. The authors include messages that highlight important issues as well that aim to empower kids. Foremost is how the story ties in with environmental activism. They emphasize the importance of a sisterly bond but take care to include the highs and lows. The action-packed third act will have readers frantically turning the pages to find out what happens. Questions get satisfying answers. The twists aim to surprise but make sense within the story. The story leaves readers on a cliffhanger that leads nicely into the next book. Haven’s Secret will thrill and delight younger readers. It’s an excellent addition to every collection.
Haven’s Secret releases on October 26. Pre-order your copy here.