Monday, December 13, 2010

Owl in Love by Patrice Kindl

This is the strangest book I've read in quite a while. I absolutely adored it even while I was cringing at the embarrassment of a fourteen-year-old girl who's convinced she's in love with her science teacher.

But this isn't the story of a girl who's got a crush on her teacher, or at least it's only partly about that. Owl Tycho isn't just any girl, for one thing: she's a were-owl, daughter of two witches who adore her but don't completely understand how the world works. Owl goes to school, but she has no friends. She sits alone at lunch and doesn't eat, since human food disagrees with her. Her one concession to a bully's goading is to bring a mouse sandwich to school one day, and the bread makes her sick.

But Owl's infatuation with her science teacher, Mr. Lindstrom, leads her to two discoveries. The first is her new and unlikely friendship with Dawn, a girl in her science class. Dawn knows Owl's crazy about Mr. Lindstrom and she wants to help, even if her idea of help is to give grayish-skinned Owl a makeover. The other discovery is a strange boy hiding in the woods behind Mr. Lindstrom's house--a boy who might have something to do with the crazy barn owl that's hanging around too.

The book is wonderfully different. Owl thinks like an owl even when she's in human form. Even so, her crush on Mr. Lindstrom feels real enough that I kept grimacing from my own memories. The book's world is our own but just slightly off-kilter, a place where a were-owl girl has to go to school and her witch parents have to sell charms to pay their property taxes.

Owl's manners, speech, and clothes are all outdated to Dawn, but Dawn is sharp and curious about her new friend. I loved the interaction between the two girls. Owl's parents are wonderful too. The story kept me guessing although I was pretty sure I knew where it was going; the ending is satisfying and just a touch bittersweet. I almost didn't read past the first chapter since it ends with a short viewpoint shift from Owl to someone else, but I'm glad I kept with it.

B&N link

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