I have a soft spot for certain kinds of juvenile fiction, perhaps because I still remember the effects on my developing imagination and interests of certain magical and science fiction books. I even read and enjoyed Active Enzyme Lemon-Freshened Junior High School Witch a couple of years ago.
The present book, which could be pigeonholed as a New Age coming-of-age story, has a lot more substance than that one. This particular face of the Hero is a fifth-grade girl named Angela, and her quest is for Gnosis. There is a brief mise en scene where she is established as a fairly typical youngster with a common set of problems: her parents are fighting the way couples fight over the last crumbs of a marriage, and she has just entered middle school as an outsider. Her neighbor, a boy of her age named Itamar, is even more peripheral, but he doesn’t care, as he is preoccupied with astral journeying and spiritual knowledge.
Angela and Itamar join in an out-of-body quest, and come back to a much-enhanced way of dealing with the “Hard World.” The outline of the Monomyth could not be more clear if the author had had one finger in a Joseph Campbell tome while writing. All the parts are there, although Navot does not dwell on the resolution and ending.
The particular form their epiphany takes may not please all readers, but if one keeps in mind that there are many ways to slice reality, especially the “non-ordinary” sort, it becomes easier to forgive the author for not writing a propaganda piece for anyone else’s vision of Over There. I confess, I would have gotten even more excited about a book like this with a specifically Pagan slant, but then I could have played the game of wishing it were more like my sort of Paganism, and so on. I am purposely not summarizing this part of the book so that the reader may be the judge of how well it fits with what went before.
A few of the minor characters are over the top in some way or another. The loopy art teacher from Dino Dan would be at home in Angela’s school. However, most of the characters are immediate and believable. The action flows well, and the dialogue is natural. As self-published first novels go, this one deserves high marks for craftmanship.
I’ll be fine with letting my son read this when he’s the right age. We’ll have to discuss whether it goes before or after Harry Potter.
[Freeman Presson is an active member of the Pagan community in central Alabama. He serves as Namen (chief priest) of Temple Zagduku. He has written reviews and articles for the Temple journal (The Owl and the Lion) and Cup of Wonder, both of which are now defunct. He lives in Birmingham with his soulmate Lilith, their son “Pagan Boy,” and their furry friends. He makes a living out of his magical power over computers.]