Scumble, by Ingrid Law
From the jacket: “Ledger Kale always dreamed of the awesome magical power he’d get when he turned thirteen — the day when folks in his family inherit an extraordinary talent called a savvy. But Ledge’s dreams are soon in pieces. And so are the toaster, the television, and the wipers on the family minivan.”
My take: Ingrid Law’s debut novel, Savvy, was one of my favorite books of 2010, so when I heard she’d written a second novel, I was excited to read it.
Described as a companion book, Scumble offers up the story of Ledger Kale, an average middle-school boy whose world has just turned upside down with the arrival of his 13th birthday. The thing that sets his family apart from others is that as they become teenagers, they each gain a “special” talent. Ledge has been hoping to suddenly gain the ability to run really fast, but it turns out instead that he destroys things — turning him into a human bulldozer of sort.
Unfortunately, his birthday arrives just before a wedding several states away. A family reunion (even one where the bride can float and the groom can cause storms) is rarely considered fun by teenagers, but one occurring right after you’ve discovered you can inadvertently break everything in sight is a thing of nightmares.
And a nightmare is exactly what the day becomes. Ledge nearly destroys the family minivan, knocks down a building, and causes an explosion of sorts in the town center — right in front of an annoying girl reporter who’ll do anything to get her story.
So Ledge is not surprised when, the next day, his parents leave him and his younger sister on his Uncle Autry’s ranch for the summer. They’re hoping he’ll be able to use the spacious Wyoming scenery to find some control over his new power — to find the key to scumbling his talent. Plus it’s not like anyone there will find him too odd: Autry can control insects, Autry’s twin daughters work together to zoom objects around the air, and Mibs Beaumont’s brothers (from Savvy), Rocket and Samson, can channel electricity and turn invisible, respectively. And dear, old Grandpa controls the earth — or, at least, he could when he was younger, when he regularly added new mountains and chasms to the landscape.
With all these savvies in the family, surely someone can teach Ledge how to scumble, so he’s safely able to return home at the end of the summer. If he can’t learn to control his gift, will he have to stay at the ranch forever?
Just like Savvy, Scumble is a delightful book. It is, however, definitely a boy’s story, so readers should not worry that it’s too twee. Ledge is missing his three buddies at home. He finds himself thinking, at the oddest moments, of the hair of Sarah Jane, the young reporter he literally runs into his first day in town. He works hard to use running to control his emotions (and his savvy) — and as training for the half-marathon he and his dad have entered together. And he worries he’s a huge disappointment to his dad and a huge imposition on his cousin Rocket, in whose sparse house he’s now living.
Like Savvy, I recommend Scumble highly. After all, who amongst us doesn’t have some part of our personality that we’d like to control a bit better?
This book fills the folklore category of the Once upon a Time VI reading challenge.