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Pucker: A Story About Redemption

Let me say this right up front: this is not a story about kissing, or wrinkles, or things that are sour.  It’s a story about redemption.

Thomas Quicksilver was born in Isaura, a world that exists parallel to our modern Earth.  In Isaura, everything is pre-ordained.  Family dinners are dictated weeks in advance, not because anyone wants it to be so, but because a group of fortune tellers called The Seers have predicted what they will be.  Each day, the citizens of Isaura visit the Seers to learn what their fate is for that day, and how it can be changed for the better.  In Isaura, most of the hard labor is performed by a group of people called the Changed: individuals who were deformed or handicapped in some way on Earth but are made whole when they come to Isaura.  Both of Thomas’s parents were Seers, but he and his mother were exiled to Earth after the death of his father.  Thomas was the one who found his father, lying on the kitchen floor dead and stripped of his Seerskin, a glittering golden membrane that makes it possible for Seers to do their work.  His mother had been skinned as well.  Thomas, afraid and alone, hid under the sink until he thought he could sense Cook, a woman who had cared for him his whole life, coming.  He reached up to grab her, but instead, pulled the curtains out of the kitchen window down upon himself; she wasn’t there yet, and the candles that were burning in the kitchen when he found his parents had set the curtains aflame.  Thomas was burned to the point of deformity.

On Earth, Thomas’s mother can use her precognition even without her Seerskin, and makes a living by telling fortunes.  Eventually, she starts to sense everything that is about to happen to everyone near her, to the point where she can’t be around people anymore because her head has become so crowded with images of their futures.  She tells Thomas she needs him to return to Isaura, disguising himself as a candidate to be Changed, and recover her skin.  He reluctantly agrees to do so, but once he is in Isaura he finds himself distracted.  It turns out if he hadn’t been so severely burned, he would have been stunningly handsome.  The Changed girls all want to spend time with him, and he enjoys the attention he’s never had.  He falls in love with another of the Changed, begins to feel himself at home again in Isaura, and is tempted to forget about saving his mother and just stay there.  Thomas is torn between his desire to live a life he’s never known and his obligation to help his mother.

This is a book about redemption, though it comes to it in a roundabout way.  Melanie Gideon has created a fascinating world, and paints a picture of a society that is apparently serene, but exists only because of a disturbing social structure.  The world-building Gideon has done here is Pucker‘s greatest strength.  Even when I was tired of Thomas Quicksilver, I still wanted to see how things would turn out for his world.

Thomas Quicksilver is not a flawless hero, and the flaws he has aren’t charming.  He is, however, an accurate portrait of a teenage boy.  If you put down Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix because you found Harry’s behavior obnoxious, you shouldn’t read Pucker.  If, however, you kept reading either because Harry’s teenage antics amused you or because you wanted to see how he would grow through it all, then Pucker will provide you with a similar vision of a young man’s growth.  Thomas Quicksilver does some things that make him near despicable, not the least of which is dating a set of girls all at the same time, disparaging them while doing it, and pursuing another girl who is the one he actually loves.  Still, these conflicting actions made him all the more believable to me.  Teenage boys chafe against authority, love being an object of desire, and – especially when denied a “normal” experience, as Thomas has been – might drink too deep once offered life’s pleasures.  While some of Thomas’s actions hurt his likability, they absolutely cemented his plausibility.  In a book set in a world so different from our own, we need a foothold to understanding the world.  Characters who feel the same things we feel and do things we or people we know might do can be that foothold, and that’s how Pucker succeeds.

I would recommend this book to fans of the more recent Harry Potter books and anyone who likes stories where utopias are maintained through dystopian circumstances.

Book: Pucker (Affiliate Link)
Author: Melanie Gideon
Publisher: Razorbill
Original Publication Date: 2006
Pages: 288
Age Range: Young Adult
Source of Book: Library
Other Blog Reviews: Wands and Worlds, Scholar’s Blog, Si, se puede

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