• The Good: Roadtrip journey
  • The Bad: All exposition; limited character development
  • The Literary: Story within a story in the fictional Up and Under series

Melanie and Harry have been best friends since they knew each other as little kids. As teenagers, they can’t wait to start their lives together—if only Melanie wasn’t dying. Harry refuses to save himself from future heartbreak, despite his parent’s encouragement to end their relationship. But Melanie and Harry soon realize they have a destiny bigger than death, a cycle as old as the seasons.

McGuire takes the elements of fire and ice, and puts them into her protagonists. Melanie and Harry are each incarnations of opposite seasons and have the chance to rule, but first they must compete against other incarnations in an ancient ritual somewhere in middle America. Honestly, it’s a pretty complicated bit of narrative to make this novel go, and so much time is spent explaining why their journey is important and what their goal is and why they’re doing what they are doing that there’s no suspense.

The protagonists are two teenagers in love, all googly-eyed and innocent. Melanie is sick. Harry is rich. And that’s about it for character development. Their entire desire is to live and be together. The perfect young love, in addition to the highly repetitive, makes this novel feel simple, even for young adults.

I love quite a few of McGuire’s works, especially the Wayward Children series. She excels at fantasy world-building and portrayals of children and what it’s like to live in a world of adults. The third acts are invariably the weakest, and there’s a tendency toward exposition, sure—but this is the first of her works that misses the mark entirely for me. I’m going to stick to McGuire’s portal fantasies in the future.