Plot: A young heroine uncovers the truth about her family legacy while attending a mysterious boarding school in Scotland in Samuels's familiar, but beautifully constructed YA supernatural mystery.
Prose: Samuels displays a striking instinct for crafting authentic young adult voices. Phoebe's narration is expressive, layered, thoughtful, and intimate. Descriptions are immediate and evocative, while dialogue is artfully crafted and real.
Originality: The concept of a remote boarding school for individuals gifted (or cursed) with exceptional abilities, is a common trope. Despite the unoriginal conceit, Samuels delivers a YA novel that expertly weaves themes of troubled friendships, identity, and family changes with an evocative paranormal mystery.
Character/Execution: Phoebe's social struggles, changing sense of self, and relationship with her grandmother are poignantly conveyed. Samuels tells an engaging story that, while it adheres to genre conventions in terms of concept, ultimately stands apart. Readers will find themselves immediately engaged with the narrative, as Phoebe is not just telling her story--but speaking truly and directly to the reader.
Date Submitted: August 20, 2020
2019 Literary Titan Gold Award
5-starred reviews from Readers' Favorite
2020 Eric Hoffer Award Book Finalist
2020 Eric Hoffer Award, daVinci Eye Finalist
Delightful fantasy with a likable and powerful young heroine.
The least agreeable aspect of the book is that the reader is left wanting to know what happens next and in the world of storytelling, this kind of itch usually happens after a satisfying read. The best part is that a second installment is expected so the anticipation continues!
Phoebe Douse – said like “Zeus but with a D”– is written and illustrated by L. Samuels. Phoebe Douse: S3A2 shares the story of a young teen, born to Jamaican parents – and raised in Texas with the help of her maternal grandmother – Naan who is very close to Phoebe.
In young Phoebe’s life, she is faced with challenges at school because she is misunderstood, and at a time when Phoebe really needs Naan’s wisdom, Phoebe loses her beloved grandmother. As Phoebe recalls the stories and lessons of her grandmother, she receives an unexpected invitation to attend a remote and prestigious boarding school in Scotland the acceptance of which is a turning point in Phoebe’s life.
There, Phoebe meets seven other students – Colin, Renaud, Zoe, Ingrid, William, Wallace, and Atwila – each from different places in the world. Soon, Phoebe discovers that within the school is a secret society, of which, unbeknownst to her, she is part of.
As the days turn into weeks and months, Phoebe begins to discover her special abilities, and surprisingly, her Naan’s connections to the school. Phoebe’s acknowledgment of her special abilities and the unique abilities of new friends make her feel less strange.
However, in Phoebe’s and her friends’ quest to learn more about the secret society, their lives are placed in danger. Ultimately, Phoebe has to balance the demands of school, learn how to overcome challenges, who and how to trust, and make wise decisions. Phoebe realises that she must listen within, believe in herself, and draw from her connection with Naan.
Even before the pages of Phoebe Douse: S3A2 are read, the elements on its cover convey a sense of curiosity and intrigue that build throughout each chapter. Samuels develops and defines the characters to make them connect with the reader, showing their flaws, quirks, and virtues. Samuels does a phenomenal job of taking the reader into a suspenseful world filled with fantasy, historical analogies, and imagination.
Weaving fiction with culture, Samuels educates the reader about aspects of Jamaica, Texas, Scotland, and other regions of the world. In this fictional genre, Samuels does a thorough job of overlaying elements of history, literature, and art into Phoebe’s world as she keeps the reader engaged, wanting to turn the next page.