I recently had the opportunity to read Amber McRee Turner's latest novel CIRCA NOW to be released on May 27th, 2014. Last year I reviewed (and adored) Amber McRee Turner's debut novel SWAY, so I couldn't wait to get my hands on CIRCA NOW. Though I predicted I would love it, I was not fully prepared for the emotional journey I would experience right alongside the main character, Circa.The Premise (as described on Good Reads): Twelve-year-old Circa Monroe has a knack for restoring old photographs. It's a skill she learned from her dad, who loves old pictures and putting fun digital twists on them. His altered "Shopt" photos look so real that they could fool nearly anybody, and Circa treasures the fun stories he makes up to explain each creation.
One day, her father receives a strange phone call requesting an urgent delivery, and he heads out into a storm. The unimaginable happens: a tornado, then a terrible accident. Just as Circa and her mom begin to pick up the pieces, a mysterious boy shows up on their doorstep, a boy called Miles who remembers nothing about his past. The only thing he has with him is the photograph that Circa's dad intended to deliver on the day he died.
As Circa tries to help Miles recover his identity, she begins to notice something strange about the photos she and her father retouched-the digital flourishes added to the old photos seem to exist in real life. The mysteries of the Shopt photos and Miles's past are intertwined, and in order to solve both, Circa will have to figure out what's real and what's an illusion.
With stunning prose, captivating photographs, and a hint of magic, Circa Now is a gripping story full of hope and heart.
What I Loved: CIRCA NOW begins with a sudden and tragic accident befalling Circa's father, and yet it is not a story about dead ends and lost things, but about hope and infinite things. Every chapter swells with possibility, and magic, and promise. I love that the story begins with an ending and unfolds into a beginning - however unexpected it happens to be. Woven throughout the universal and heart gripping themes of love and loss, is a fantastic array of characters: introspective and creative Circa, her plucky and loyal best friend Nattie, the mysterious Miles full of untold stories (very much like each one of us), and Circa's mother (who journeys bravely, hand in hand with Circa, through the ups and downs of anxiety - such a sensitive and genuine portrayal).
Readers will also be as enthralled as Circa in her dad's unique hobby of creating "Shopt" photos - wild and wacky altered images made complete with even wilder and wackier stories - so much FuN! I loved how through these photos Circa's father (and his legacy) remained a very present part of the story. It offered such a meaningful and tangible way to understand how it is possible to move forward without ever letting go. Finally, Circa's world was simply one that I loved to be lost in - even despite the tragedy swirling about, the things that grounded her (family and friends and faith) were proven to be that much BIGGER.
What I Learned: That magic does not always occur as we expect it to, and that there is magic in the real, which is perhaps the most hopeful message any of us could receive.
Three Words to Describe This Book: Creative, Magical, Hopeful
Recommendation: I would wholeheartedly recommend this book to everyone. CIRCA NOW is an incredible combination of the heart and emotion that often characterizes quieter novels along with a hefty splash of mystery and intrigue that will keep readers of all ages captivated. I also love the extra "oomph" that seems to accompany all of Amber McRee Turner's novels - whether it be through playing with photos or toying with words, she has a knack for infusing the special. I hope everyone has a chance to pick up this beautiful and unforgettable book!
I also couldn't finish this review without sharing that Amber McRee Turner is as tremendous of a person as she is a writer. It is such an honor to share my love for her beautiful stories!