I'm making life hard on myself this week. After writing a review of a book that was fascinating and brilliant but hard to talk about (Words by Ginny Yttrup), now I'm attempting the daunting task of reviewing a book written by someone I know. It's true that Krissi and I have never actually met, but Greg worked with her, I (usually) read her blog, and we're friends on Facebook, so I feel like I know her. I've followed the journey of Windchaser and Windfall from a single, self-published volume (Phantom Island: Wind) to the two volumes now published by Tate. I even have my own autographed copies of the shiny new books. I feel like I've shared a teeny tiny part of the whole process, which somehow makes reviewing them feel a little intimidating. So I guess I'll just do it anyway.
Luckily, I enjoyed Windchaser very much. It's a fun story with fun characters. Whitnee is a somewhat-troubled teenage girl who, along with her best friends Morgan and Caleb, is spending the summer as a mentor at Camp Fusion. The camp is a place where preteens who have gone through traumatic experiences can find hope and healing and a path to a normal life. Whitnee met Morgan and Caleb during her summer as a camper, after her father's disappearance. Years later, the three return to the camp to revisit their experiences there and to give back by helping other campers work through their own difficult times. One night they set out to explore the forbidden property across the Frio River and are rather dramatically transported to the mysterious White Island, where Whitnee suddenly develops strange powers and everyone seems to have been expecting her arrival. Whitnee must find a way to deal with these unexpected events, keep her friendships strong, and try to get everyone home, hopefully before anyone realizes they are gone!
There are several things I liked about this book. The characters are very real, and clearly very young. You get treated to some pretty awesome teenage camp drama (anyone else remember those days? I sure do!) before the setting shifts to the White Island. Whitnee's emotions are very turbulent as she deals with the confusion of being attracted to (gasp!) more than one guy, tension between her campers, and the pain of wondering what really happened to her dad. It's really easy to get caught up in all of it. In addition, Krissi has a definite knack for worldbuilding. You can see it during the camp scenes, but once the story moves to the Island, it really shines. You can almost get the feeling that this place actually exists somewhere; it's that real. The scenery, the people, the tribes, and the village of Aerodora: it feels like Krissi really knows these places and these people, and therefore the readers can really get to know them, too.
I did read (and review) the original version of this book and its sequel, and I appreciate the subtle differences. The biggest thing I noticed is that it seems a little more polished and cohesive, and I appreciated that. My favorite scenes, the ones I remembered best from the first reading, are all still there, so I was happy. This book does end somewhat suddenly, leaving you with the feeling that you're right in the middle of something, which is true. It picks up with Windfall, which I'm planning to pick up shortly after I post this review!