Reviewed by Pallas Gates McCorquodale
February 27, 2015
A next generation cli-fi fantasy, Polly and the One and Only World, by Don Bredes, introduces fifteen-year-old Polly Lightfoot and her raven, Balthazar, both on a mission to transport an irreplaceable grimoire through treacherous wastelands, government-controlled checkpoints, and hostile territories. Putting a futuristic spin on past events, Polly’s migration parallels themes from the Salem Witch Trials, complete with heretics, religious zealots, and witches and mages burnt at the stake.
Pursued by the FTB (Faith and Truth Board), Polly finds an ally, travelling companion, and possibly more in Leon, who has some interesting skills of his own. Constantly battling the nature of good versus evil, Polly and Leon engage in refreshingly open debates about the state of the new regime and the world around them, “We’re just specks, Leon. Tiny specks in an ocean of space and time.” Deep thinkers as well as action and risk takers, Polly, Leon, and Balthazar lead the way in a fight for freedom, individuality, and change that is just as relevant today as it was years ago in Salem—and certainly will be in years to come.
Gr 9 Up--The "one and only world" referenced in the title is that of a near-future United States--magical, post-catastrophe, almost familiar, yet chillingly changed. Polly has been sent to the relative safety of her aunt and uncle in Florida to escape the Christian Protectorate government's purge of her village in Vermont. But safety is not possible for a hereditary witch in the fundamentalist police state that America has become.
The teen manages to escape capture by the guard with the aid of her familiar, Balthazar the crow. She sets off to find her family, but discovers travel through the wilds of climate cataclysm and institutionalized zealotry is not an easy course. With the help of friends she meets along the way, particularly the freethinking Leon, Polly struggles through betrayal, loss, and capture.
With captivating language that draws readers in, Bredes's writing will inspire teens to revere current freedoms. Though the messages are clear, they are sketched with a light hand, so as not to overwhelm the story. The complexity of Polly and Leon as characters is revealed as they experience danger and redemption on their journey. Their relationship grows and develops as they do. Their multidimensionality is wonderfully contrasted with Balthazar's black-and-white view of the world, which often leads the sometimes naive title character out of danger. A thrilling journey, full of peril, exploit, friendship, and sorrow, this book is sure to find readers.
--Genevieve Feldman, San Francisco Public Library, Copyright 2014, School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.