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The Hermit Thrush Sings

Review

The Hermit Thrush Sings

A girl with webbed fingers on one hand inhabiting a post meteorite-catastrophy America is pretty standard fare for most Young Adult fantasy novels. What makes THE HERMIT THRUSH SINGS a better read than the rest of the tripe on the shelves are the precise character portraits.

The narrator, Leora, lives in the former state of Maine, now the country of Maynor. She is spunky and smart, but has a ton of baggage familiar to most teenagers: feeling ostracized at school, issues with her step family, fears about the future. Of course, Leora is considered a mutant and is threatened with incarceration at The Institute on a daily basis. And her fear of the future comes from the fact that she can "see" events before they happen through vivid and violent visions.

Then there is the matter of the first tentative steps Leora takes away from her home. She doesn't go off to college but rather frees a captured baby "birmba" --- a mutant bear-ape --- and helps it find its mother. (Side note: I really loved the frightening yet gentle birmbas --- they make interesting companions for a feisty girl like Leora.) This act of defiance leads her to a whole new life outside of the heavily guarded village she has always called home.

Leora, like most teenagers, finds herself questioning the authority of her elders. Her search for the truth about what is happening in the villages of Maynor also leads her towards her long lost sister --- and a band of insurgents. Issues of race and class are touched on in interesting ways, as are gender issues; it seems that the rebels against The Rulers of Maynor are mostly descendants of Latin American migrant workers --- and the brains behind the operation is a group of teenaged girls. Now that's what I call Girl Power!

Author Butler does use some unconvincing plot devices, but in the end, Leora's story is a compelling one. The portrait of a teen girl, self-conscious and angst filled at one moment, full of ideas and longing the next, is right on the money.

Reviewed by Lucy Burns on February 13, 2001

The Hermit Thrush Sings
by Susan Butler

  • Publication Date: February 13, 2001
  • Mass Market Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Laurel Leaf
  • ISBN-10: 0440228964
  • ISBN-13: 9780440228967