That's actually what I wrote to the author in the ending margin of the ARC that will be finding its way back to her through many eager hands after mine.
Here's the blurb:
After bouncing from foster home to foster home, Magdalene Mae is transferred to what should be her last foster home in the tiny town of Silver City, New Mexico. Now that she's eighteen and has only a year left in high school, she's determined to stay out of trouble and just be normal. Agreeing to go to the prom with Bridger O'Connell is a good first step. Fitting in has never been her strong suit, but it's not for the reasons most people would expect-it all has to do with the deep secret that she is a shape shifter. But even in her new home danger lurks, waiting in the shadows to pounce. They are the Skinwalkers of Navajo legend, who have traded their souls to become the animal whose skin they wear-and Maggie is their next target.
Full of romance, mysticism, and intrigue, this dark take on Navajo legend will haunt readers to the final page.
It continues to amaze me how some authors can craft a tale that makes readers suspect but not quite know. The balance of mystery and logical hints leading up to a revelation is an art I've not grasped as a writer, so I marvel when it's done... well, artfully.
Bethany Wiggins is artful in her modern rendering of this old Navajo legend. I first heard of Skinwalkers when I worked in a desert wilderness therapy program in my early twenties, but none of the more experienced guides would tell me the story behind it - just that it was so scary, I'd wet my wiggy (sleeping bag) if they told me. Needless to say, when I found out Bethany was publishing a YA novel drawing from this legend, I got excited! Finally, I'd get a glimpse of the legend. Bonus: it would be wrapped up in a YA romance.
I am beyond pleased with the results.
Yes, Skinwalkers are wicked scary (I did not wet my wiggy after reading this book). But fortunately, the first half of the book focuses on the main character's paranormal ability and how her strangeness affects her as a trying-to-be-normal high school senior.
From the beginning, I felt both sorry for and proud of the protagonist Maggie Mae. Sorry, because the adults around her spoke about her as if she wasn't even in the room, an occupational hazard of being a foster child, I guess. Proud, because she didn't let people pity her. She saw that she was being ostracized, and embraced the loner flag, always rising above the teasing, bullying, and trickstering of her peers.
There's a HUGE character growth arc in this story. Maggie Mae begins with very real, devastating problems on a contemporary fiction level (bullying, not fitting in, being dirt poor and only having one pair of jeans), and in the end she is dealing with very real, devastating problems on a fantastic, good-vs.-evil level (creatures attacking her whenever she's alone in the dark, people finding out her deepest secret: that she's a shapeshifter).
And from the 17-year-old girl in the beginning to the 18-year-old woman at the end, the growth is striking and satisfying. The change is slow and subtle, but profound, like the romance between her and a certain track star. (Mmm, Bridger.)
I loved that not one element can be said to be the whole story. It's a romance, but it's not just a romance. It's fantasy, but it's not only the fantasy that drives the story. First and foremost, it's about Maggie Mae the character. She's a strong enough protagonist to make any story interesting. It just so happens that she's also a foster child/shapeshifter/girl with trust issues/hunted creature/bully target.
Warning: I cried at least twice in the first half of this story alone. I had trouble putting it down to do things like sleep and (ahem) use the bathroom. And I got weird looks from my husband for laughing randomly.
There were many sighs throughout. But in the end, there was only one:
I hope you find this book on your shelf in the near future. (And I hope, hope, hope there's a sequel in the works because I just got a taste of this incredible world and would love to see more.)
p.s. There's an inspiring interview with this debut author at Operation Awesome, plus a review by Michelle McLean.