• The Good: A quest into a fantasy world; friends who accept you for who you are
  • The Bad: Less than stellar world-building; low conflict; unsatisfying end
  • The Literary: Portal fantasies for the wayward and the cast-aside

Regan Lewis loves two things: horses and being normal. When she confides a secret to her best friend at school and is thrown out of the inner circle, Regan runs away. In a forest creek bed between her school and home, she steps through a doorway inscribed with Be Sure. Thrust through her portal to a land filled with centaurs and unicorns, this standalone tale of becoming a hero is the sixth in the Hugo and Nebula Award-wining Wayward Children series.

This series is perfecting the art of expressing what is means to be a socially awkward child who feels a little different and who longs to find their place in the world, or a world for them. These books are inclusive, but also dark and scary, with real stakes and choices the children have to make for themselves. In Across the Green Grass Fields, Regan finds out she is intersex, and despite her loving parents insisting that she is perfect just the way she is, she can’t accept it herself.

The worlds into which the children fall are usually a little unexpected. And here in a land of centaurs and kelpies, don’t you know that unicorns are “just good eatin'”? Regan lives with a tribe of centaurs who become her new family. As a human she has a special and rare status. Not only is she good at climbing, but the arrival of a human in this land means that she has a destiny to fulfill, and any human must be brought to the queen. Luckily, her family decides she’s too young, so for most of the book she stays with the tribe and learns friendship that is freely given.

I like the theme of destiny in this story and what it means to have expectations placed on a child at such a young age. Whether the destiny is to save a world or be a girl who doesn’t go through normal puberty, the journey is so much easier when you have loving family and friends to help you decide whether you want a destiny you did not ask for, and how and when to accept that fate.

Unfortunately, this book just doesn’t hold the same charm as its predecessors. Or I’m finally admitting to myself that they’re slowly losing their magic, because I so love the first few in the series. I don’t connect with Regan or her new best friend. The fantasy elements are tired. Compared to the other books in the series, the conflict is mild. The third act feel tacked on and not well integrated with the rest of the story.

Recommended for grown up girls that miss their Lisa Frank unicorn binders!