Meet Gage. He’s eleven years old, helps out in his mother’s tropical fish store, loves everything to do with Halloween, and doesn’t have any friends, mainly because he feels too different. He has autism, and while he understands why autism makes him do the things he does, he doesn’t like it, and retreats into his routines and a fantasy world he creates inside of a homemade fort on his family’s property.
But what he doesn’t know is that he has secret powers beyond his understanding. These are called into action when a mysterious visitor shows up at his fort with a gift and begs for his help to save her world. After wrestling with himself about how or even if he can help with such a daunting task, and why he, of all people, has been chosen, he is drawn into a universe of endearing, magical creatures: a witch in training, a young vampire, a smart aleck pixy, and a teenage werewolf who becomes a good friend.
I don’t want to give too much of the story away, because it’s lots of fun, but overall I loved Gage’s wry sense of humor and positive spirit, even as he doubts his abilities. I like the relationship between Gage and his four-year-old sister, Sydney, who is wise beyond her years and adores her brother with every fiber of her being. And I really grew to care about the characters, even the ones who aren’t always so nice.
While adults are present in the story, and lend their influence, support, and encouragement to the kids, the kids are the real heroes, which is one of the best things about the story and about middle grade and young adult fiction in general. After a while, I even found myself forgetting about Gage’s autism as I fell into Nicole Storey’s sweet, funny, scary tale.
For any child who feels different, who feels cast out, this story shows that we are all human underneath, all want to make a difference, all want to have friends.
I’m eagerly awaiting the sequel, so I can spend more time with my new friends.