Days before her birthday, Mibs father is in a terrible accident, and her mother and older brother Rocket drive out to Salina, the town where he lies in a coma in the hospital. On the dawn of her birthday, a couple of small events convince Mibs that her savvy is the ability to wake people up – the perfect way to help her father. Before her birthday is many hours old, she has abandoned her own awful birthday party and has stowed away, along with Fish, her younger brother Samson, and two other kids, on a pink bus driven by a bible salesman. She is determined to get to Salina as quickly as possible to wake her father up.
Needless to say, things don’t go very smoothly. Mibs realizes to her horror that her savvy is to read the thoughts of people who have inked pictures on their skin – tattoos, of course, but even a happy face drawn on with a ballpoint pen. What a useless savvy, she feels – the voices in her head drive her bonkers and worse, she can’t help her father. As it turns out, Mibs is wrong; her savvy comes in very handy in the end.
Throughout the book, Mibs discovers again and again that folks are endlessly mysterious. Everyone has secrets, not just the members of her secretly talented family, and even when those secrets come to light, there are usually plenty of hidden depths left to ponder. Appearances can be deceiving, Mibs learns, and there is a lot to appreciate in most people, once you get to know them.
These small discoveries and surprises move the story forward in an unpredictable and thoroughly charming way, matched by the quirky language used by Mibs, the narrator of the tale. It courses and curlicues its way like a particularly rambunctious stream, throwing up fascinating words and turns of phrase – one nasty character has breath “a loud mix of bluster and buffalo wings;” when you have learned to control your savvy, you’ve “scumbled” it. But the writing has a purpose and goal, so the story keeps flowing, never getting bogged down in sentimentality or folksiness.
This is an all-around satisfying book that kept me intrigued all the way to the end. My only quibble – surely the bible salesman’s big pink bus would have been pulled over within hours of those kids running away!! Magically, none of the folks looking for the missing kids managed to figure out that the pink bus and the kids left at exactly the same time. Oh well, I happily suspended my disbelief and kids most likely will, too.
Ages 9 - 12