[description from goodreads]
Jess has a secret: a mysterious glass flask she finds in an heirloom desk's hidden compartment. Its surface swirls with iridescent colors, like something's inside, something almost like a song, something with a soul. No one else sees anything under the shifting glass, but Jess is convinced there must be some kind of magic in there. And when her twin brothers are born critically ill, Jess begins to believe that the force within the flask just might hold the key to saving her brothers-and her family. In this emotionally rich novel, award-winning author Nicky Singer crafts a world of possibility that is steeped in hope and the power of love.
I'm used to reading about characters dealing with the illness or loss of others, but usually not with a narrator as young as Jess in Under Shifting Glass. For that new perspective, plus the added hint of magic, I very much enjoyed the story (well, as much one can "enjoy" such a sad tale).
From the get-go, Under Shifting Glass is clearly a "grief tale." Jess's aunt just died, and her new siblings are actually conjoined twins, so she has to deal with mourning and all the stress that comes with worrying about how the twins will survive. That, plus other crumbling friendships and school problems, give Jess an overwhelming amount to deal with, but I'm impressed with the way most everything was handled. Although some things, like Jess's troubles with her best friend, escalated too quickly to make them seem realistic in this rather short novel, her fixation on the seemingly magical flask from her aunt's desk ties everything together. She ties it to both her aunt and her brothers rather quickly, and as it seems to shift and change, so does everything in her life. It makes for a consistently changing, interesting tale, especially since the flask does seem to have some powers and gives Jess's story a sense of wonder as a result.
The magical flask helps show Jess's true character too. It would have been easy for her to think the flask had powers and simply wait for them to happen, but instead, she tries to fix things in her own way. It was often clear to me that her methods wouldn't work, but reading about someone with such pure hope and wishes for things to improve made the whole ordeal heartbreaking rather than a waste of time. I only wish the other characters could inspire such emotion; Jess runs around so often and interacts with so many different people, often for only a few pages at a time, that I mostly didn't find the supporting cast to be three-dimensional. Believable, surely, and realistic for the most part, but they mostly seemed to be there to move the plot along rather than be fully-realized individuals.
Although it's not developed to its fullest potential, Under Shifting Glass is a bittersweet, prettily written read that feels a lot like the magic its heroine believes in.
Book details: Chronicle/Hardcover/$16.99
Source: sent by publisher for review