by Bree Wolf
Upper Middle Grade/YA | Growing Up
Published September 2013
In the buzzing city of New York, 12-year-old Gabriel Scott retreats from his parents’ constant arguing into a virtual world of adventure and companionship. Unfortunately, as summer comes along, his parents ship him off to Kenton Woods to stay with grandparents he hasn’t seen in years. Trapped in a world of small town life, Gabriel suddenly finds himself cut off from the only friends he ever had when he discovers that his grandparents don’t even own a computer.
After sulking in the house for a few days, his grandfather drags him outside and Gabriel takes his first steps into the real world. Gathering all his courage, he talks to Liam, their neighbors’ son, who hands him a small sheet of paper and asks for his help. From that day on, Gabriel follows Liam and his friends on a treasure hunt across town. With the entire school on their heels, they rush to solve riddle after riddle, slowly closing in on that which no one has ever found before. Along the way, Gabriel meets the head-butting twins Jack and Jordan, their dog Cat, the insane story-teller Eddie and Hannah, a young girl locked up in her room.
Hand in hand, they work to help Hannah escape and take her along on their adventure. Having spent her entire life cut off from the rest of the world, Gabriel finds a kindred spirit in the red-haired girl with the glowing eyes. But one day, a secret Hannah has been carefully hiding from the group rears its ugly head and threatens to shatter Gabriel’s new life and the place he thought he’d finally found in the world. GOODREADS
The early part of FIREFLIES portrays the contrast between a boy’s reality and a game. I thought this was a clever idea to explore what the game world meant to him, compared to his real-life. As the story progressed, the game took a back seat, so it was a storyline that never really was completed. Looking back, I understand that was the whole point. Gabriel’s real life became more important than his game life.
Gabriel is shy and inexperienced at social interaction, he’s an introvert that struggles with making new friends. There are troubles at home, so he moves away to stay with his grandparents, and that’s where the real story begins. His new life is blessed with the old-fashioned calmness and love of his grandparents, which is a stark contrast to life with his parents.
He soon meets new friends and we watch his confidence grow and his true self is gradually revealed. It’s then that he meets, Hannah, a lonely girl who is kept hidden away by her grandfather, for reasons unknown to him. They are a perfect match, and it was nice to follow their story. We see them help and teach each other how much more there is to life, and they discover that everyone has unique qualities and can contribute in their own way.
At this point, I suspected that Hannah was hidden away for a reason. I was right in my suspicion, but I won’t reveal a spoiler here. The story does head into some challenging territory, which struck a chord with me, as it was very relatable due to some personal experiences over the past few years.
In a Nutshell | A great story of growth and compassion of a boy who finds himself in a new life. It’s a warm, old-fashioned, and simple small town story, with a twist that tugs at the heartstrings.
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