Mississippi "Mibs" is turning thirteen, and with her thirteenth birthday comes (in her family, at least) an exciting but scary change and responsibility - the acquisition of a "Saavy," or magical power that nobody can predict and that often takes years to learn to control. Needless to say, Mibs' family is a bit unusual. Her mother's saavy is to be perfect in everything (including her mistakes); her 17-year-old brother Rocket is quite literally electric; and her 14-year-old brother Fish can manipulate water and create a storm out of nowhere. Only her father is left out, having married into the family - largely due to his stubbornness. He doesn't get to know about saavies until he marries.
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Keeping saavies secret is important to avoid unwanted attention from the outside world. Mibs, like her siblings before they turned thirteen, goes to a regular public school. But all the siblings home-school starting at age thirteen until they are able to control - or scumble - their saavies. At the start of the book, Rocket and Fish are still working on this. Nonetheless, Mibs' mom believes it is important not to isolate themselves too much from the outside world, so the entire family - saavy or no saavy, and scumbled or not - must attend church regularly.
Shortly before Mibs' thirteenth birthday, her father is in a car crash and goes to the hospital in a coma. Mibs is very worried about him and hopes her saavy will be able to help him. The accident also prompts their pastor's wife to organize a birthday party for Mibs. This is the last thing Mibs wants. They have no idea about saavies, and have no clue that she needs time to herself to learn about her saavy before facing the outside world. Without being able to explain this to her, however, it's difficult to get out of the party.
When she wakes up on her birthday, several incidents mislead her into thinking her saavy is to wake things up. Perfect, she thinks. It isn't dangerous and it's just the thing to wake father up again. So she has no qualms in the end about going to the party at her church, and reassures her siblings. At the party, she starts hearing voices. She slowly figures out that where there are drawings in ink on people, due to pen drawings, tattoos, etc, she can hear that person's thoughts. She hasn't figured out all the details, however, before she decides to secretly hitch a ride on a pink Bible-selling bus to get to where her father is. Her brother Fish, the pastor's son Will (who turns out to be his grandson), and the pastor's daughter Roberta follow her onto the bus. The bus goes in the wrong direction.
They are discovered after some time on the road, and convince the bus driver, Lester, to turn around. They pick up Lill, a waitress, on the side of the road. Her car has broken down and she needs to get to work. When she is fired shortly after arriving by her rather nasty boss, she decides to join them for the rest of the trip, using her last paycheck to help them return home. Throughout this time, Mibs uses her Saavy to read the minds of Lester (who has a permanent tattoo) and Roberta (who has a temporary tattoo, though Mibs doesn't realize it is temporary until they are at a hotel later). For a long time, they mix lies and truths to keep from telling everything but simultaneously encourage Lester and Lill to help them.
As the story progresses, Roberta and Will gradually figure out about the saavies, since Mibs keeps on figuring out Roberta and Lester's thoughts, and rain and wind keep on coming whenever Fish is outside and upset. When the whole crew stops at a hotel for the night, they have figured it out entirely, though Lester and Lill still haven't caught on. The teens fake a call to their parents so that Lill will be reassured, and then go down to the pool, where Mibs discovers that Roberta isn't as tough as she makes herself seem, and Fish discovers that his saavy is more fun than he has ever realized. It also becomes evident that Roberta is somewhat interested in their older brother Rocket, and that Mibs and Will like each other. At the same time, Mibs isn't ready to rush forward with a relationship yet, though Will later tells her secretly through a drawing on his hand that it's okay - he can wait.
They finally get to the hospital after much avoiding of police and news reporters (who have been reporting them as missing). Mibs and Fish are reunited with their family, and go to see their father. While Mibs' saavy can't save him as directly as she hoped, she is use it (through her dad's tattoo) to find a remnant of consciousness left in her father's mind, which she uses to find the right thing to say to help him come back to them.
One year later, her father still hasn't recovered entirely, but he and Mibs have become closer. He is able to communicate with her more easily than the rest of the family because it takes effort for him to speak, and he still can't speak very clearly. Roberta and Will have become regular visitors. And Mibs has been able to go back to her old school, where a group of girls who used to tease her and get on her nerves regularly are now quite manageable.
This is the first in a series by Ingrid Law. The sequel is entitled "Scumble."
Best part of story, including ending:
The characters' unique magical powers are fascinating and provide material for plenty of adventure. It's also good to see a story where two teens are interested in each other, but decide it's ok to wait and / or take their time.
Best scene in story:
One of the best parts of the book is when Fish is able to finally control his Saavy at the hotel swimming pool and, at the same time, Mibs is able to see past Roberta's tough front.
Opinion about the main character:
Mibs' curiosity and excitement about her Saavy, and her reaction to each new development as she begins to learn to use it is very satisfying. It is also good to see she is portrayed as mature enough to make the conscious decision not to rush into a relationship with Will, even though they like each other and want to remain friends.