Sarah Cannon’s debut novel ODDITY (November 2017) starts off with a burst of hauntingly familiar but life-threatening activity, and it never lets up. Set in the future, Oddity (named after the town in which the events take place) is a cross between sci-fi, horror, and fantasy. The main character, Ada Roundtree, is a spunky, sharp-as-a-tack, likeable 5th Grader with a self-possessed ability to find adventure and trouble. Her town, Oddity, is a bizarre, dangerous, and consumingly intense environment where children have survival drills against leopards and sometimes disappear, as happened with Ada’s twin, Pearl. Ada’s best friend, Raymond, and the new kid, Cayden, serve as supports to her energy even as they balance out her passion and daring.
The storyline is packed with imaginative adventures and quests, and the reader is introduced to new events as backstory details are leaked out. Interesting ideas, like missing children imprinted into (or is it onto?) rocks and town-wide competitions for children with terrifying dangers, are mixed in with supporting characters like Blurmonsters, zombie rabbits, and hard-to-spot puppeteers. As with all good middle-grade novels, the children’s adult family members are peripheral, but influential. In Oddity, overheard adult conversations and sympathetic and “cool” adult friends help move plot points along.
I enjoyed this novel, but I found it difficult to stay with the plot — mainly due to the many moving parts and disjointed activity. It felt frantic, much like the world in which the kids of the story live. I liked the supernatural and sometimes goofy elements, and my ten-year-old loved it. I think she understood the novel’s plot line more than I did!
ODDITY is definitely worth a read for kids who enjoy fantastical fiction and strong, fully realized characters. Recommended for ages 8 and up.