Seventeen-year-old Becca works so hard to protect her younger brother Ryland, for the voices that he claims to hear in his head have been a regular source of trouble. Problems range from teasing and social isolation to the slew of “experts” who have tried to take him away in supposed attempts to help him. But, Becca knows better, and she will do whatever it takes to keep her brother safe from harm, for she knows he’s not crazy or dangerous. In the opening of Julianna Scott’s new Young Adult novel, The Holders, Becca wonders if the people offering help this time are different. She and Ryland soon discover that there may not be help for Ryland, but there is a whole new world for him to enter where he can feel accepted and useful.
There’s something different about the people who have come to Ryland’s mom asking to help him, and his mom trusts them, even though Becca remains somewhat wary of their intents. When the two men from St. Brigid’s, a special school in Ireland, agree to have Becca accompany Ryland on the trip over, she reluctantly agrees, never knowing that the trip will actually change her life just as much, if not even more, than Ryland’s!
The biggest difficulty for Becca lies in the fact that this is the school that is run by her and Ryland’s father Jocelyn– the father that abandoned them years ago, shortly after Ryland was born. The intensity of her hatred for her father fuels Becca’s fierce protective nature toward Ryland, for she sees herself as the other parent figure he has always lacked. Though she wants nothing to do with Jocelyn, she feels oddly drawn to one of the school’s representatives, Alex, whose compassion and openness gets her to begin to trust. It is Alex who helps introduce her to the world of The Holders, a race of people who possess an array of special powers ranging in strength and reach. Alex eventually reveals the full story about an ancient prophecy, an impending danger, and a Holder child who will deliver the world, Holders and humans alike, to safety.
Though I’m not a regular reader of YA or sci-fi/fantasy, I was really taken with The Holders. The voice of Becca is so earnest and honest, and though the plot is fantastical, the setting is modern-day and realistic. With Ireland serving as the lush background, there was an implied magical component to the setting, at least for this U.S. east coast gal. Even the minor romance storyline worked for me, as this would be a big part of an older teenaged girl’s experience. There isn’t anything graphic in the romantic exchanges beyond some kissing, though. I wasn’t sure if the story was complete as I finished the last few pages, but it appears that this was just the first book in a series. It looks like I’ll have to wait until 2014 for book number two, The Seers.
Dawn enjoys reading what her kids are reading, and with an almost-13-year-old at the head of the pack, she has to be willing to try new genres sometimes. Every once in a while, she blogs away at my thoughts exactly.