I requested an ARC of Kate Milford's MG title The Boneshaker after reading a really gracious post at Cherie Priest's site. As you may recall, Cherie had a book come out last fall called Boneshaker which is is set in an alt history Seattle and includes a massive underground drill that destroyed the city and released a toxic gas which turns people into zombies, a search for the truth about said drill, plus other steampunk wonderfulness including airships. (See my review in the October column.) Milford's title is set in 1913 Missouri and includes a traveling medicine show with ulterior motives, a newfangled bicycle, dealing with the devil, a fallen angel who quotes Rilke (maybe he's a fallen angel) and a town at the crossroads which paid a heavy price. (Find out more at Kate's great entry "The Boneshaker: A List of Seriously Cool Stuff That's in This Book".)
So basically they have nothing in common but the titles and the fact that I read and loved them both.
Milford's book is about thirteen-year old Natalie who loves her small town and her family and machines. Like Ellen Klages' Dewey, Natalie loves nothing better than to work with gears and wheels and hang out in her father's shop. He is a mechanic - especially of bicycles - and right out of Dick Van Dyke circa Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Through Natalie we meet all the denizens of Arcane, MO including her pack of friends, the storekeepers, mysterious musician Tom (who might have pulled a Robert/Tommy Johnson deal with the devil) and the town's richest man. Then one day Doctor Jake Limberleg's Nostrum Fair and Technological Medicine Show arrives and turns the town upside down with its insidious promise to cure all ills. Natalie is suspicious at first but then, as events unfold, becomes terrified. In the end she has to make a stand at the crossroads for everybody and everything she cares about. In this way she is very reminiscent of Meg Murray and her climactic moment to save Charles Wallace (and the universe). Natalie's moment is just as thrilling - actually even more so as it involves a breakneck chase on bicycle and terrifying moments with all sorts of mechanical creepiness. It's very Something Wicked This Way Comes but also so much more. It's certainly not a rewrite of that classic (or anything else I've mentioned here), but wholly its own story with its own heroes and villains.
I loved it, plain and simple. And I totally see this one as a novel any of the 10 & up crowd (boys and girls) would enjoy the heck out of. (And all you librarian people out there you really need to read this one so you can recommend it.)
I'm interviewing Kate for the Summer Blog Blast Tour in May and look forward to finding out more of how her book came together and what she learned along the way.
[Banner image from Kate Milford's site: The Clockwork Foundry.]