Whitefish writer Jeff Giles – a veteran of Entertainment Weekly – entwines the fate of two unforgettable teenagers in an imaginative page-turner.
When Zoe first met him, X didn’t have a name. He came loping across a glowing frozen lake in a blizzard, “wearing a long coat – deep blue, with an iridescent shimmer like a soap bubble. He didn’t have a hat or gloves or a scarf, but the cold seemed not to touch him anyway.”
He rescues Zoe, her quirky little brother, Jonah, and their two black labs while trying to send a doomed soul – the murderous Stan – to the Lowlands.
Zoe names him X, “for an unknown variable,” and explains to this enigmatic visitor that everyone deserves a name, and that if the lords of the Lowlands don’t like it, they should just shut up.
But X is a bounty hunter, bound by the laws of his hellish home – and he has just trampled on every one of them, including the most ancient commandment: “None Must Know.”
Zoe has troubles of her own. She’s invented a Do Not Open box in her brain “to hold back memories” of her “amazingly weird” father, who recently died while caving alone in treacherous Black Teardrop, and her surrogate grandparents and next-door neighbors, who vanished a few months later, dragged from their house by an intruder.
Our fierce, savvy heroine dominates the pages of this adrenaline-charged adventure story, trying to save her family, reunite with X (who is inevitably sent back to his desolate home), and recover her father’s body from the cave where he died.
“Gripping. Utterly original. Beautifully written,” is how Peter Jackson, the Oscar-winning director of “The Lord of the Rings” describes this debut novel.
Giles, who has written for Rolling Stone and The New York Times, was deputy managing editor of Entertainment Weekly. He lives with his family in Whitefish. A Q&A with Publishers Weekly reveals that a sequel is in the works. Bring on the next installment!
– Kristi Niemeyer