Wednesday, 4 April 2012

"The Six" by KB Hoyle

"The Six" by KB Hoyle
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Darcy Pennington hates her life. She is an insufferably average teenager with no real friends, crushing social anxiety, and an indescribable sense of not fitting in anywhere. A change in her dad’s job forces her to attend Cedar Cove Family Camp the summer before her eighth-grade year, and Darcy once again finds herself on the outside of a social circle of teenagers, with her only advocate being an awkward girl named Samantha Palm. The only problem is, Darcy has no desire to be friends with her, but as the hostility from the other teenagers increases, she decides to return the friendship.

When Darcy begins to experience strange magical occurrences, she comes to believe she’s either losing her mind or on the brink of a discovery that could give her purpose in life. After unwittingly stumbling through a magical gateway to a new world called Alitheia, she convinces Sam and the other four teenagers to travel there with her, and despite their earlier hostilities toward her, they eventually concede leadership of their small group to Darcy. Once there, they learn the “arrival of the Six” was prophesied hundreds of years before, and that they must expel an ancient evil from the land. In the end their lives, and the fate of Alitheia, will hinge upon Darcy. Will she have what it takes to fulfill her mysterious purpose? Or will she fall prey to a deadly foe?

A Little Teaser

Darcy tried not to get too excited as she pattered down the hall toward Rubidius’s cottage entrance. She was still spinning from the fact that he was actually going to work with her, and her hands shook as she knocked on the wall next to the curtain hanging in front of his doorway. From

experience, she knew that the sound would resound as a knock on his door in the cottage, and she waited expectantly for his gruff “Come in!” but it didn’t come.

Frowning, she knocked again, this time a little harder. Surely he hadn’t forgotten about her. Her fears were baseless, though, as the curtain abruptly pulled open and Rubidius poked his face out. His curly hair and beard were frazzled, and he was red-faced and sweaty.

“Is it time already?” he barked. “Well, come in, come in. I just have a bit of a mess to clean up.”

Darcy followed him into his cottage and surveyed the “mess.” His cauldron, which was usually boiling by the fire, was overturned on the floor and scorch marks gave evidence to its landing next to its spilled contents. Rubidius was nursing a burn on his hand and mumbling angrily to himself. Darcy immediately knew that he wouldn’t be in a pleasant mood this morning.

“Um . . . what happened?”

“What happened? This confounded experiment happened!” Rubidius shouted. “Why give us the drive to complete an impossible task?” He shook his good fist in the air, and Darcy got the impression that he was not talking to her. “First, it’s too hot,” he continued, mumbling quickly, “and then it’s too cold. The next time it’s too viscous, and when I try to correct that, it gets too opaque and gives off a foul odor. What is a self-respecting alchemist to do?” He waved his hand over the mess on the floor, and the spilled liquid started rapidly drying.

Darcy surveyed the scene. “Does this have anything to do with turning lead to gold?”

“Does it have anything to do with it? It has everything to do with it!” He gestured wildly and Darcy jumped.

“But why is it so important?”

The master magician mouthed at her like a fish out of water for a solid minute before turning away without giving her an answer. When his floor was clean, he dug a jar out of his cupboard and applied a thick salve to his burned hand. As Darcy watched him do this, she had a revelation and giggled. “Did you throw your cauldron?”

He scowled at her. “Impudent,” he said, but he didn’t deny it. Darcy sat in a chair at the table and smirked.

My Thoughts

"The Six" by KB Hoyle begins by highlighting how "insufferably average" the main character is, and by association her friends as well. Each member of "The Six" would be readily identifiable personalities in any school ground. I found that this was an important consideration, don't most teenagers feel this way? Haven't we all at some point felt "insufferably average"... even as adults? It allows the reader to acknowledge their own feelings about themselves and affords them the opportunity to reflect on this through the character they most identify with.

Darcy is a contrary character who simultaneously wants to be accepted by her peers while avoiding close and sustained interactions with them. In the camp setting, she is definitely an outsider, as all the other teens had been meeting there annually for many years. She is further isolated by her own social ineptitude and her underlying fear of rejection and often deceives her friends to enjoy solitary moments. It is on one of these occasions that Darcy first stumbles on the alternate universe of Alithea.

Alitheia is a magical place, that is well described by KB Hoyle, with many of the characters and creatures within displaying some quite endearing attributes. Darcy's first visit there is brief, but she is soon able to return with all of her friends in tow. This is where the real action begins, and I'll not divulge much of the story from here.

Like the humans in "The Chronicles of Narnia", the six teens all have a mission to complete and their own personal journey of self discovery to follow. They each learn to value both themselves and each other. Darcy's lessons are the hardest learnt, as she is not only "insufferably average", she is insufferable! And often sullen to boot. She makes herself hard to love; it's hard for her family, her peers and it will be hard for you too as a reader. Her internal conflict is essential though, and she'll make many poor decisions that will help the story progress.

You'll keep turning the pages, hoping that despite it all, things will work out alright in the end... Here's to hoping that Darcy will come see herself as her friends see her, that she will learn to love them and forgive herself... Before it's too late.

I enjoyed this young adult book, even though i am well beyond the "YA Genre". It was the individual characters that really set this book apart. KB Hoyle is quite adapt at making them real. In "The Six" I was able to reminisce about my own high school days and the many types of people that populated my group of friends. I may not have really liked Darcy throughout much of the book, she made too silly and hurtful decisions based on her own poor self esteem (I may have done that too, and who likes looking into a mirror, when your inner nasty is on display?), but she did show significant development throughout this novel and I look forward to more of her journey as "The Gateway Chronicles" continue.

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