Excellent character development is immediately apparent in this polished debut novel- as the reader is introduced to the fantastic young adult story of The Caretakers. The adolescent members of the team, Ricky, Delphine and Jaz, who struggle with their own health issues; asthma, narcolepsy and seizures respectively, are assigned the duty of traveling back in time to take part in “witnessing” distressing events that have shaped the landscape of contemporary society. What is the purpose of this? Why is it so important for three naïve early teenagers to take the chances and face the dangers? To what end? The lives of the trio would be forever affected by their own delicate issues surrounding deaths in their families and the deep feelings they develop for one another. They will also learn that their elder relatives were once a part of the witnessing family, who will share their knowledge and expertise- guiding the members into the hazardous doorway of their next experience. The team will battle monstrous “plunderers” that try to stop them and the kids will bleed and become one with each other, reinforcing their need to know and to wonder, why things had to have happened as they did. More importantly, the reader as well will be submerged in contemplation, displacing their everyday lives for much longer than it will take to reach the exciting climax in the story.
Usually, a novel has merely a temporary effect of providing entertainment to its audience. The Caretakers however, was apparently charged by its author, to have the uniquely profound consequence of actually teaching the young reader. Making them aware of how they can deal with similar events that perhaps may confront they themselves- as they mature. Ms. Grace, a decades-long experienced and dedicated educator, took her time and designed The Caretakers, inadvertently or not, as a lesson plan for her young spectators who most assuredly, cradle the book with zeal. They know they are learning about friendship between the trio and in their own lives, and are certain to be moved, to tears in places, surely to recall moments within this fine, well-researched plot for years to come. In fact, it is known that the audience of a tale of quality may refer back to a story for an acceptable brief while, whereas the characters, when customized perfectly enough, will last much longer in the mind’s eye.
Even this 61-year-old reviewer, who received the book as a gift from a grandson, took note and was struck by the suspenseful account of the 1911 calamity that occurred above the filthy cobblestone street near Washington Square Park. I listened and watched carefully—to the kids and how they reacted to the dread- and how they cried. I could hear their hearts, details succinct and emotions raw. I was part of the team. I felt what they felt, even though I knew what happened through news accounts throughout my many more years, different as told by varied sources. But there I was.
I liked the good mix of younger and older in this work. However, I especially enjoyed the time I spent with Ricky, Delphine and Jaz. They gave me a fun and well-paced (and sometimes stressful as I worried about them) perspective. I thought the peripheral characters were complex and colorful, even drowning me in gritty and lyric prose at times, thereby creating the perfect ambiance for The Caretakers to conduct their essential business.
For the curious mind and the unrelenting human spirit.
Young adult fiction at its finest.