Original Publication: Walker Books Australia, May 1st 2015.
My Edition: Paperback, 272 pages. June 2nd 2016.
Synopsis: Every girl dreams of being part of the line—the chosen seven who tunnel deep into the mountain to find the harvest. No work is more important.
Jena is the leader of the line—strong, respected, reliable. And—as all girls must be—she is small; years of training have seen to that. It is not always easy but it is the way of things. And so a girl must wrap her limbs, lie still, deny herself a second bowl of stew. Or a first.
But what happens when one tiny discovery makes Jena question the world she knows? What happens when moving a single stone changes everything?
A Single Stone is an Australian Young Adult novel that I have seen mentioned on a few Australian Booktuber’s channels – Little Book Owl for example. This book was the 2015 winner of the Queensland Literary Award and has an average star rating of 3.97 on Goodreads – so of course I was eager to pick it up. The initial premise enticed me, and I feel as if the author did the best with what she had, however, that doesn’t mean it was great.
The opening places you inside a mountain, a claustrophobic atmosphere that is well-developed despite the main protagonist’s ease. And, as someone who gets claustrophobic and panicked easily, I was on the edge of my seat waiting for something bad to happen. Even though, I recognised that bad things rarely happen at the beginning of novels. Sadly, this constant tension continues throughout the book and it became quite tiresome by the time the tension released and our fears were recognised.
Alongside this, for the most part the story felt dull. Nothing seemed to happen, despite things happening.There were plenty of ‘shocking’ discoveries. However, when thought was put into these discoveries, it was clear that many of the characters lacked common sense and intelligence. The Mothers – a group of women who are nailed as the antagonists – did logical things, then kept them as secrets for no logical reason. And I understand the requirement of ‘suspending disbelief’ while reading fiction. But, with such blatant stupidity staring me in the face, I could not ignore it.
Ultimately, I feel as if I only kept reading in order to avoid adding another book to my dnf pile.
Plus, the outside world was understandably neglected, in the sense that the characters and the author spent very little time concerning themselves with it. This created an uneasy feeling while reading, as you are not given a sense of the time period within which this is set, or provided with a geographical location. This could easily have been set in a galaxy far far away, and you would never know. Sadly, this draws you away from the story as you are constantly attempting to place yourself and the characters within the world.
As for the characters, despite the provision of back stories, explanations and motivations, the entire village felt dull and lifeless – merely cast with ‘average mother #22’ and ‘father figure #38’; none of the cast felt alive, real, or unique in any degree. The main character was 14, to young for me to relate to. This led to me questioning all of her actions from the perspective of a more mature and developed standpoint.
McKinlay experiments with shifting perspectives. However, this occurs at irregular intervals with little to no context, leading to a significant amount of confusion.
Sadly, this book is quite forgettable. The style of writing introduced nothing new to the YA genre, and the story fell flat on the promises made by the premise. Personally, this could have been greatly improved if McKinlay utilised the full potential of such an idea – allowing the mystery to delve deeper, into a less PG orientated approach.
Rating: 3/5 Stars
What did you think of A Single Stone? Leave a comment down below!