A Snake Falls to Earth by Darcie Little Badger
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This author is an enrolled member of the Lipan Apache tribe, and this story draws on Lipan mythology. An animal person (another term for shapeshifter) is one of the main characters, and the settings include the Reflected World, basically an extradimensional echo of this one.
It makes for an interesting background, but it's not without its flaws. The pacing in particular: the first half of the story is pretty slow, and the second half--starting when the titular "snake falls to earth"--kicks into high gear, so fast it makes the reader's head spin a bit. A lot of the first half is taken up with detailing the two settings of the main characters (our Earth and the Reflecting World), which also involves stories and oral histories of the protagonists' families. Now, as a non-Native person, I'm sure I don't appreciate this to the extent that I should. Nevertheless, it makes the story drag in the beginning.
But altogether this is a refreshing change of pace from the usual run of YA. I also appreciate that there is no romance for either of the main characters; it's more of a coming-of-age story for both. In particular Oli, the animal person (cottonmouth), who is separated from his blood family and is continuing to search for them at the book's end, now has a supportive found family to help him in his quest. It's an inventive and original concept for a young-adult book, and I'm so glad we're getting more of these kinds of stories.
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