Book Review: A Single Stone (Standalone Sunday)

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Standalone Sunday is a feature created by Megan @ bookslayerReads where each Sunday you feature a standalone book (not part of a series) that you loved or would recommend!

Sometimes, the smallest little thing can set off a landslide. That’s exactly what happens for Jena, the hero of A Single Stone, by Meg McKinlay. This standalone middle grade book was originally published in Australia, but Candlewick Press released it here in the U.S. on March 14th! I was lucky enough to get a copy through NetGalley, and I’m glad I did, because this book is not like any I’ve read before.

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In an isolated society, one girl makes a discovery that will change everything — and learns that a single stone, once set in motion, can bring down a mountain.

Jena is the leader of the line — strong, respected, reliable — a job every girl in the village dreams of. Watched over by the Mothers as one of the chosen seven, her years spent denying herself food and wrapping her limbs have paid off. She is small enough to squeeze through the tunnels of the mountain and gather the harvest, risking her life with each mission. No work is more important. This has always been the way of things, even if it isn’t easy. But as her suspicions mount and Jena begins to question the life she’s always known, the cracks in her world become impossible to ignore. Thought-provoking and quietly complex, Meg McKinlay’s novel unfolds into a harshly beautiful tale of belief, survival, and resilience stronger than stone.

A Single Stone is incredibly unique. Jena lives in a village trapped in a ring of mountains. Her ancestors became trapped in their high valley after a catastrophic event closed off the only pass back to the coast where they used to live. Living in the shadow of the mountains means hardship; there’s not much light to grow crops, and in the winter, snowdrifts taller than houses form, sealing people into their homes and blocking their chimneys. To burn a fire is to risk suffocation by smoke, but to not burn one is to risk freezing to death.

Because of this winter plight, girls like Jena must harvest mica, a mineral that can give off light and heat without burning. However, it can only be found deep within the mountains in black caves and crevasses. Survival is never a guarantee in Jena’s community. Or in her job.

Jena is proud, determined, fearless, and hardworking, which is why she’s earned the respect and admiration of the village. It’s also the reason that she won’t stop investigating when she begins to suspect that the leaders of the community are doing something dangerous and unethical. Her grit and bravery bring a lot to the book, and it’s wonderful to watch her character development as she begins to realize that doing what’s right could jeopardize all the things she has worked the hardest for.

“By rights, she should return it; at the very least, leave it where it lay.

But it was cool to the touch, irresistible. And it was just one stone, she told herself. What could it hurt, to move a single stone?”

It would be a huge mistake to dismiss this book as another forgettable dystopian novel based on the synopsis. The world McKinlay has crafted is nuanced and thoughtful. There are no true villains or evil-doers, only people struggling to make the best decisions they can. The clever intertwining of religion, politics, and ethical dilemmas takes A Single Stone into territory beyond other genre hits.

McKinlay’s story is so creative and unusual that I really can’t think of anything else like it. A Single Stone is much like the mountains it revolves around: you can’t quite understand the experience of it until you step into its shadows and walk the path yourself.


All in All…

  • 5/5 sea stars
  • Published March 14, 2017, by Candlewick Press
  • 272 pages
  • For fans of The GiverThe Hunger Games, speculative fiction, Earth’s Children series

I received this book free through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  

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One thought on “Book Review: A Single Stone (Standalone Sunday)

  1. Pingback: A Quick Note From the Trenches | Meg McKinlay

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