Happy MMGM Monday, Reading Nook!
Today I'm thrilled to share a book from a debut author whom I really believe will become a shining MG star in the future.
Genuine Sweet by Faith Harkey is magical, endearing, with lessons that are sure to be enjoyed by readers, young and old.
MMGM is a feature hosted by the fabulous Shannon Messenger on her blog every week!
Genuine Sweet by Faith Harkey
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published April 7th 2015 by Clarion Books
Format read: ARC via publisher
Debut author Faith Harkey's wonderful characterizations and imaginative plot, makes this a tale that will undoubtedly grow in the hearts of readers everywhere - much like Genuine's magic.
Told in the engaging, irresistible voice of Genuine Sweet herself, Faith Harkey's debut novel spins a remarkable tale of a small-town girl with big-time magic and an even bigger heart.
Debut author Faith Harkey introduces us to Genuine Sweet, a young girl who's had a bit of a tough life. Her father is a reknowned town drunk, while her grandmother has worked hard to hold their family together. But even with her grandmother's hard work, Genuine's family has still been struggling.
Thus, it's both a surprise and a relief, when Genuine learns that she comes from a long line of wish fetchers. The women in her family have long had the ability to grant wishes for others, just not themselves. Armed with this knowledge, Genuine decides to use it to help make her family and the town a little better. However, Genuine quickly learns that there are caveats when it comes to trying to wish for a better life...
Harkey's tale of a girl with a magical legacy, is as endearing as it is thought-provoking. When Genuine learns her legacy as a wish fetcher, it clearly feels like things have changed for the better. She's able to use her gift to help out those in her small town, and also use those wishes to barter for the betterment of her own family.
But even as Genuine improves her family's lot one wish at a time, Harkey is careful to show that with great power, comes great responsibility. Through the help of a new friend, Genuine endeavors to figure out a way to help those in the town and those around the world who need assistance. But Genuine quickly finds herself overwhelmed with the prospect of trying to help everyone who needs a wish, and also stressed with the knowledge that for many, there is a fine line between a want and a need.
Harkey does a fine job of showing that while some of the wishes of people are small and/or will make a true difference in a person's life (e.g. new chicken coops; a father figure for a family), there are many who want things simply for the sake of wanting them - e.g. new horse riding gear. And sometimes, when you've given so much to help others through wishes like Genuine, it's those latter wishes that can become both exhausting and make a person slightly resentful.
So it's both gratifying and rewarding when Harkey shows Genuine putting her own well-being first, by not granting wishes to everyone who asks, and helping satisfy needs through the introduction of bartering to the town. The self-empowerment extends also to a sub-plot involving a wish healing a generations-long misunderstanding, which truly melted my heart while reading.
While Genuine eventually comes to realize that wishes can't solve everything in her life, the lessons that she's learned along the way of responsibility, self-empowerment and community involvment, eventually paves the way for both the wish fetching legacy to live on, while non-magic inclinced town members can continue to depend on themselves and each other.
This utterly magical tale is made all the better by Harkey's beautiful, absorbing writing. Genuine narrates the tale in a way that's very reminiscent of southern story telling tradition, and had me absolutely enthralled from beginning to end.
Of special note: As Ms. Yingling points out in her review, the book can be very southern at times. While I thought the Southern elements were charming, I can see younger readers becoming slightly confused by those elements. I'd encourage parents and educators to use the book as a great jumping-off point to discuss different regional cultures and traditions.
It should also be noted that there is a significant character death in the book. Younger readers may be upset by the death, but Harkey handles it very well. There are several wonderful reminders that death doesn't always involve pain and suffering, and even those who do leave us, will have left legacies that continue to live on.
While Genuine eventually realizes that wishes aren't necessarily always the answer to everything, her efforts to help her hometown and the world around her, teaches her the value of forgiveness and responsbility, while also empowering her and the town to find ways to work together on their respective futures.
I highly, highly recommend this book for all fans of middle grade fiction, and for fans of magical realism fiction. You won't want to miss this one - trust me.
About the author:
Faith Harkey travels the backroads of America in search of story. Drawn to places where the milk comes fresh from the cow, her adopted hometowns include Tiger, GA (pop. 406), Grangeville, ID (pop. 3,151) and Istachatta, FL (pop. 116). Faith is a graduate of the Writing Workshop at Eckerd College. Visit her website at www.GenuineSweet.com.