The Mark of the Dragonfly
From the beginning, this novel caught my interest, and I found myself engrossed with the adventures of Piper, Anna, and Gee.
The young protagonist Piper is a scrapper and a gifted machinist. The inhabitants of her town all survive by scavenging for items deposited by dangerous meteor storms and selling them to traders. Piper manages to
eke out a living by scrapping and by repairing machines other scrappers bring her. It is a bare subsistence, but it keeps her fed.
In an effort to protect her friend Micah, Piper races into a meteor storm and observes the destruction of a caravan that had foolishly failed to take cover. On discovering that Micah has received a serious head injury, Piper investigates the caravan searching for medical supplies that might save Micah's life. What she discovers is a girl, younger than herself, who has survived. Piper manages to get both injured children back to the village, where she turns Micah over to his brother. In her own home, Piper does what she can for the injured girl.
Anna, the girl, is a strange one with some obsessive habits, and she puzzles Piper. When Piper finds the mark of the Dragonfly on Anna's arm, she is even more at a loss, but since Anna has lost her memory, Piper's curiosity remains unresolved.
When another survivor from the caravan shows up searching for the girl, his presence reduces Anna to a quivering bundle of fear. The man attempts to take Anna by force, and Piper reacts by conking him on the head with a pot; the two girls end up on the run.
Train 401 offers a way to escape, and Piper and Anna manage to board, but they are quickly discovered. Gee, the security guard, knows the girls will be trouble, and initially wants to toss the stowaways off the train, but he is eventually convinced by the mark of the dragonfly on Anna's arm to allow them to stay.
Why does the man arouse such fear in Anna and what does he want with Anna? What does the mark on Anna's arm mean? What kind of danger awaits the girls and train crew?
What a pleasant surprise. Accepting ARCs is always chancy. Some are excellent, some are entertaining, and some are--well--pretty bad. For the YA/Middle School category, I count this one as excellent. And when I class it as excellent, I mean that I think it will appeal to individuals well outside of the designated age group. In my case, decades outside of the age group.
Johnson skillfully creates a sort of fantasy/steampunk world and populates it with interesting characters and plenty of action.
Piper is a great little heroine, complete with flaws, but with a sense of integrity and compassion. Piper, Anna, and Gee all have something that sets them apart from the norm and must struggle to come to terms with these differences and to do what is right.
Read in January; review scheduled for March.
NetGalley/Random House Children's
YA/Juv/Fantasy. March 25, 2014