By Tracy E. Banghart
Amazon Digital Services, Inc., $2.99, 159 pages
If you are looking for a YA summer read that is full of adventure, family drama, romance and mystery, look no further than Tracy Banghart’s novel By Blood. The action begins immediately as readers find 17-year-old Emma Wong trapped on a place bound for Oxford, England. It is summer and vacationing in London is the last thing Emma had in mind. She pictured hanging out with her dad, not babysitting her stepbrother Fermin (a.k.a. Vermin). She doesn’t want to meet her stepfather and she certainly doesn’t want to spend any time with her mother, the very woman who abandoned both her and her dad when Emma was just a little girl. But it is Mom’s turn for visitation and Emma has to try to make the most of it.
Whether you’ve had the pleasure of traveling to a foreign country or not, you’ll enjoy reading about Emma’s journey throughout London. Author Tracy Banghart writes about navigating planes, streets, cities and unknown tourist destinations in a way that brings readers right into the scenes along with Emma. A particularly laugh-out-loud moment occurs when Emma, pushing a crying Fermin’s stroller round and round a Roundabout, gets completely overwhelmed by the horns, bikes, cars, dogs, foreign languages and beautiful buildings that surround her.
Yet it is this chaos and excitement, this diversity of experiences, that opens Emma’s eyes to the world, people and possibilities she has been ignoring. Meeting Ash, who is “a hairy armpit away from full-on hippie,” is just the beginning. Ash and her friend Simon are Druids who get strength and power from exercises meant to connect them to the earth. But in this modern world, these practitioners of ancient rituals feel quiet invisible. Emma knows the feeling all too well and is drawn to them right away. Plus, Ash can get Fermin to stop crying almost immediately! That’s a good friend to have around when you are babysitting! How will Emma react to Simon and Emma’s Druid beliefs?
Banghart keeps this YA novel moving along with her witty dialogue and flashbacks to Emma’s “better times.” Readers get to know Emma’s friends, Diana and Helen, and her dad in these reflections on the past.
Perhaps the best part of this book is Banghart’s sense of humor and comedic timing. Emma is snarky and very funny which means she says some wild things to other characters. But thanks to Banghart’s use of inner dialogue, readers get to absorb every sarcastic comment Emma wishes she could say, which makes her all the more lovable. The plot is great and the suspense leading up to the ending will have you on the edge of your seat. If you enjoy this book, check out the companion novel Moon Child in August of this year!