Stand-along // Middle-Grade // Fantasy/Sci-Fi
This middle-grade book is an incredibly mysterious and dark story about a school for children that no one trusts because of what they are. Our main character is Ava, who has been keeping the secret of what she is her whole life – she is a Chimera. Because of a experiment gone wrong, kept under deeply secretive wraps from the public, she has animal DNA mixed into her own DNA and was born with the ability to see wavelengths of light no one else can.
I picked up Tentacle & Wing because I had read Sarah Porter’s newest dark fae YA book (Never-Contented Things), and though I rated it 3 stars (it was a tough one to rate because the thing that helped give the book it’s eerie feel, I also couldn’t get past and would take me out of the story regularly), I could see how her writing and visual way of creating her magical worlds would fit perfectly into a middle-grade setting. I love dark middle grade and Tentacle & Wing did not disappoint! It is a riot of crazy visuals and amazing children with animal qualities – like wings, scales, and other interesting features. I hope she writes more middle-grade in the future!
Characters: Ava is a great main character, and her struggles with having to lie about who she is her whole life, and then discovering by herself how she wants to be and what to be proud of is both bold and heartbreaking. Her dad just wants to keep her safe and give her a lovely childhood and so teaches her to keep what she can see to herself. To everyone else, she is a normal girl, but the very fact of her having to lie her whole life to keep herself and her family safe is a big weight for her.
Throughout the story, her personal journey is the largest part of why I liked this book. Like a lot of other middle-grade characters, she struggles being in two worlds at once – she is a Chimera, but looks just like a normal girl and wasn’t raised in the school like the other Chimeras were. When she gets to the school, the other students seem to be jealous of her because of her upbringing and that her abilities aren’t easily seen by the rest of the world.
Each of the other Chimeras had absolutely fascinating and wonderful characteristics that helped to define both what they looked like and who they were. I loved learning all about the journeys of the other students at this school and being surprised by what happens to each of them. They were each unique and I never got any characters mixed up.
Plot: This book is all about Ava and what she discovers throughout her time at the school for Chimeras. Ava is a sort of catalyst that rocks the school and isn’t afraid to stand up to people who are afraid of who she is or ask the questions others have been afraid to ask. The plot in Tentacle & Wing is hard to explain because it is mostly centered around revealing the ominous feel of what is happening to these children and why it happened in the first place. To discover the secrets, you will have to read it yourself!
Setting: Most of this book takes place at a school for Chimeras, which the government runs to keep them out of the way and all in one place. It doesn’t take long for this book to introduce Ava and jump directly into the journey to the school, starting off her story.
When we reach the school, it is a wild and mysterious place, backing up to the ocean with gates locking the students inside, and confused outsiders out. It is a great setting for the strange and almost surreal feel of this book, and a boarding school is an easy setting to slip into for a middle-grade book, which makes it feel familiar, while introducing new characters and mysteries.
Overall, this book is an incredibly atmospheric read with clear characters and a plot that unfurls in an absolutely satisfying way. I was so happy to give this book FIVE STARS and I dearly hope Sarah Porter writes more middle-grade in the future!
Other June 2019 Reads:
June 2019 Wrap-up
Descendant of the Crane by Joan He (DNF)
Tentacle & Wing by Sarah Porter
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson
The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill
Hilda & The Stone Forest by Luke Pearson
Memento by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
The Beholder by Anna Bright
Birthday by Meredith Russo