Review: Weave a Circle Round
I hate to start a review by saying that a book was good because of what it did NOT contain, but when a YA novel does NOT contain handsome supernatural beings, sorting, life-or-death romantic longing, cancer, or shockingly young children being pressed into military service, I feel like that bears mentioning. In fact, I’m not sure I can remember the last time I read a YA novel in which not a single character was sorted into a color-coded societal group. ‘Sorting’ isn’t necessarily a bad thing; like any trope, the success depends on the author’s skill. Still, reading WEAVE A CIRCLE ROUND (Amazon) and not having to remember which ‘team’ anyone was on was… genuinely refreshing.
Kari Maaren’s WEAVE A CIRCLE ROUND is a YA time-travel adventure, with plenty of literary and mythic qualities. The narrative follows Freddy DuChamp, a second year high school student (I would say sophomore except this is set in Canada so… who knows!?). Freddy is angry: angry at her mother for never being around, angry at her deaf step-brother Roland for making her stand out at school, angry at her friends who have recently abandoned her for the cooler crowd. The only person that Freddy doesn’t actively dislike is her younger sister Mel, and even then she gets annoyed by how Mel accepts Roland without a problem, even joining in his D&D games.
Freddy’s general ill humor is interrupted when two mysterious neighbors move into the house next door. One is a boy Freddy’s age, although judging from the way Josiah is always sniping at everyone and everything around him, he seems much older. Cuerva LaChance, the older woman (not his mother) who lives with Josiah seems much happier, although she has an unerring ability to create mayhem wherever she goes. Freddy isn’t sure she trusts or likes either of them, but at least they’re a distraction from her own life. While Mel thinks they’re mysterious, Roland takes an instant dislike to the new neighbors and warns the girls away repeatedly, which does not go over well with Freddy.
The neighbors stop being eccentrically charming when Freddy visits Josiah’s house for a school project and finds that she and Josiah have been transported into the middle of a battle in medieval Norway. The narrative really picks up from here, as Freddy and Josiah must try and make their way home, with no guarantee of their return. Along the way Freddy must solve the mystery of Cuerva LaChance and Josiah, who appear in every age and place, always accompanied by a person they dub “Three.” Josiah and Cuerva claim that either Freddy, Mel, or Roland are “Three” and that they must make a choice between the order (Josiah) and chaos (Cuerva LaChance) that each figure represents. Freddy doubts this narrative and must solve the puzzle of these two enigmatic figures before she becomes too immersed in their story.
I enjoyed this book, especially once the time travel started. Maaren does a great job bouncing Freddy and Josiah to all sorts of diverse time periods, and it’s fun to see Freddy outside of the context of school, where she is clearly miserable. Freddy’s character arc is an emotional one, going from anger and fear towards acceptance and bravery, and she becomes more assertive and interesting as the novel progresses, which is nice. Freddy has the most growing to do, which makes her a natural protagonist, although I occasionally found myself wishing that the narrative followed Mel or Roland, as they both seemed like slightly more interesting characters. The relationship between Josiah and Cuerva LaChance is also particularly well done, and while Cuerva’s highjinks won’t tickle every reader’s fancy, they are charming and impish–until they’re downright scary.
My main narrative critique was simply that the buildup to all of the time-travelling fun felt like it dragged. Perhaps as an adult reader I was too impatient for the inevitable to happen. When mysterious neighbors move in next door, it’s only a matter of time before you’re off time-traveling with them, right? I think that perhaps my other qualm, that the actual mystery was not that mysterious, might again have been the fact that as an adult reader it also felt like Freddy sure was taking her time to come to what seemed like a fairly obvious conclusion. However, I thought the final, climactic sequence was especially good and that Maaren had written her way to a powerful ending.
At one point, Freddy picks up a pink, sparkly book about vampires and makes a comment about how much she hates it. While I don’t want to infer authorial intent, Freddy’s distaste for the book felt like a real nudge from Maaren about the kind of YA novel she was NOT writing. If you, or the vampire-weary teen in your life feel the same, this might be a good book to pick up.
- Recommended Age: 11+
- Language: Mild and infrequent
- Violence: Bullying
- Sex: None