Publisher's Note:  

Jess is allergic to the sun. She lives in a world of shadows and hospitals, peeking at the other children in the playground from behind curtains. Her only friend is a boy in a coma, to whom she tells stories. One night she sneaks out to explore the empty playground she's longed to visit, where she discovers a beautiful impossibility: a magical garden wrought of ice. But Jess isn't alone in this fragile, in-between place...

This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Chicken House

The Ice Garden

by Guy Jones

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Overall Review:  

The Ice Garden by Guy Jones was one of the best middle grade books I have read in such a long time. I understood and empathized with the main character, Jess, and her way of dealing with her crippling allergy that prevented her from living a life like normal boys and girls. I loved her friendship with Davey, a coma patient in the hospital where Jess went frequently for testing, and that she connected with him because they were both in situations where they couldn't do what they wanted to do, but were reliant on doctors and treatments in order to survive.

The addition of the ice garden was such a beautiful, fantastical way Jess was able to rise above her problems, at least for a little while. The description of the garden was so lovely, and the connection the garden had with the real world was poetically gorgeous. The unexpected arrival of Owen, another boy whose unusual physiology makes it impossible for him to live in the real world, draws a nice correlation between Jess' friendship with Davey, and this new friendship with Owen.

My favorite thing about this story was that, at the end, Jess is faced with a choice: either of accepting a gift that will allow her to live like a normal girl, or to sacrifice any chance of normalcy to save her friend. I liked the way the author handled the ending, and wouldn't have been satisfied if he'd ended it any other way. A beautiful, lovely keeper, in the tone of The Secret Horses of Briar Hill.

Content Analysis:  

Profanity/Language:  2 religious exclamations. 

Violence/Gore:  A character is frequently taken to a hospital for testing, including blood draws; neighbors shout at each other; a girl is severely allergic to the sun; a boy is in a hospital bed, connected to many tubes; a girl hears a sound and feels something is wrong; a mother and daughter occasionally argue and verbally fight; a character's burn is treated, with some description of the injury; a character is in a strange place and almost goes over a cliff edge; a girl feels she is being watched, panics and runs away, and as she turns to look behind she sees a shadowy figure; implication of a character being in critical condition; a terrible storm sweeps through a town; a character wanders a maze and stumbles across another person; a character is left alone by another character, and smells blood; a man is armed with a rolling pin as he waits for another man to come; a girl is out at night and is accosted by a woman; a girl gets bitten by a strange animal; a boy bets a girl to cross a dangerous-looking ice bridge; a girl has a nightmare; report of a wound; a character's existence is threatened; a character panics and runs into a dangerous place; a girl undergoes medical tests; a boy "crashes" in a hospital; a report of life-threatening incidences being linked; an ice bridge breaks as a character crosses, trapping her in an unknown territory; a character is attacked and nearly strangled by sentient ice vines; characters are trapped with no way to get home; friends have a verbal fight; characters are struck and covered by an avalanche; a character is injured; a girl wakes in a hospital, with report of various injuries sustained.

Sex/Nudity:  A girl tells a fictional "Emperor's New Clothes" type of story about a man ending up stark-naked in his shop; report of a man leaving his wife and daughter.

Mature Subject Matter:  

Abandonment; chronic illness; threat of death; separation; serious illness; lying.

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Reviewed By Katrina
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