By Cynthia Collins
Mockingbird Lane Press, $14.95, 246 pages
While researching the historic Mirabelle Manor for a school report, 17-year-old Lisa Duncan becomes fascinated with Mirabelle Hutchings, the 19th-century mistress of the manor. Lisa visits the seaside estate whenever she can, reads Mirabelle’s diary, and searches the grounds for the Unicorn Tree, Mirabelle’s favorite place in the world. When news arrives that her older brother is lost at sea, Lisa’s curiosity turns to obsession. Can the ghosts that still walk the grounds of Mirabelle Manor help her? Will finding Mirabelle’s special tree bring her brother home?
Although The Unicorn Tree contains a plethora of interesting historical and nautical information, the book fails to deliver a compelling story. Lisa Duncan lives in a kind and friendly world where everything is exactly as it seems. Her friends are group-hugging clichés with the emotional depth and believability of cardboard cutouts. Even the ghosts are helpful, positive and supportive. The world seems to revolve around pleasing and understanding Lisa. Throw in a golden-boy love interest with two lines of dialogue and neither surreal time travel nor the drama of a brother lost at sea can keep the story from sinking.
Reviewed by Elizabeth Goss