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Jamie invented Gumlea, the magical land in the woods behind their house. Annie knew it was real from the minute he described it. The woods came to life, bathed in golden light. She wasn’t Annie, Jamie’s little sister, anymore. She was Emperata Annit, and he was the Nameless Boy. They had adventures together in Gumlea, adventures no one else could understand. They made a pact to tell no one else about Gumlea, and to break that pact was punishable by a death price.

But everything changed when Jamie entered middle school. He changed, not just physically. He started pulling away from Annie and from Gumlea. And then he disappeared altogether. Eventually the police gave up the search. Even her parents started talking about him in the past tense. But Annie knew where Jamie really was. He was in Gumlea, and she was the only one who could find him.

Told in parallel with the mythology of Gumlea, this coming-of-age story is both beautiful and heart-breaking. Lyrical language and the suspense of Jamie’s disappearance makes it difficult to put down. I’d recommend this one to fans of dark YA contemporary with a literary feel.

Strange Creatures by Phoebe North

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