"A poem doesn't come out and tell you what it has to say. It circles back on itself, eating its own tail and making you guess what it means." That pretty well describes “Chime,” a Young Adult fantasy/mystery/romance. I listened to the audiobook version, and found myself compelled to circle around the block several nights because it was so compelling. “Chime” is unlike any other book I’ve read and I’ve read thousands. It’s a first person narrative, told from the point of Briony Larkin, who lives in Swampsea and has a secret. She believes she’s a witch who called up a flood which injured her stepmother, a fire which burnt the library in the parsonage where she lives, and a wind which dashed her twin sister, Rose, off a swing and caused her to suffer a terrible brain injury. She’s also an Old One who can talk to sprites, spirits and brownies. She’s tormented by self-hatred and refuses to believe anything good or share her burden with anyone, “because they hang witches.”
Then Eldric, a university dropout, and his father, a construction engineer who’s come to drain the swamp, arrive and change everything. Although she resists Eldric’s overtures of friendship, because she believes she’s so bad, she can’t help but be charmed by his refusal to think anything terrible about her. In fact, he claims to be a Bad Boy, and they start a “Fraternitus Bad Boyificus” to share adventures and boxing lessons and Briony begins to thaw.
All the characters and events are viewed through Briony’s thoughts and experiences, so we as readers are drawn to believe Briony’s reality. But as the book unfolds, there are more and more tantalizing hints that things are not the way she sees them. Her sister Rose is what we call “mentally challenged” and at first she doesn’t seem very aware of anyone but herself, but she holds the key to the puzzle of Briony’s secrets.
This book is almost a prose poem/stream of consciousness style and I had a difficult time deciding whether to continue listening or not, but an audiobook has a certain advantage/disadvantage because you can’t check the end to see if it’s worth continuing. But I’m glad I stuck with it, because it wove a web of mystery and moonbeams around my heart. I can thoroughly recommend it for listeners age 12 to 64!