The Red Necklace by Sally Gardner
(Hardcover, Dial Press, 2008)
Yann is a gypsy boy whose special talents earned him a spot in a traveling magic show. Yann can read people's minds and pitch his voice. His surrogate father Tetu can levitate and move objects. When Yann and Tetu perform at the house of a Marquis, they run into an evil Count and a lonely little girl. Both people will change Yann's life forever.
The Red Necklace is wonderful in so many ways. First off, the novel is set in France during the 1790s, just as France was on the cusp of a revolution. The darkness and madness of the time show in the novel's tone and characters. Count Kalliovski is a truly evil character and the tension builds with every page. The magic in this novel is important but not over developed. Yann and Tetu are gypsies and, thus, we infer that the magic exists because of their heritage. Gypsies have always held a fascination with me (hello, Johnny Depp in Chocolat!), so I was completely enthralled with Yann. I expected this novel to be about the girl, Sido, but it was mostly told from Yann's point of view. Given that and the book's depth, I was severely disappointed in the cover after I finished the book. I know that girls in elaborate dresses are all the rage on teen book covers, but this cover couldn't be more wrong for the book! No boy in their right mind would be caught reading this book in public, which is sad because I think this is a book that a lot of boys would really appreciate. Despite the cover, this book is well worth buying and putting on your bookshelf. (But if you want to share it with a guy friend, I recommend taking off the cover jacket before passing it on to him.)