Released only May this year, A Single Stone won the 2015 Griffith University Children’s Book Award. I got to meet its gorgeous author, Meg McKinley, at the QLD Literary Awards ceremony. (You can read all about it!)
A Single Stone tells the story of Jena, leader of the line. For generations, her tiny village has been cut off from the outside world, and survives by harvesting heat-giving mica from the mountain. However, this honoured task can only be performed by young girls small enough to fit inside the mountain’s claustrophobic tunnels. One small discovery makes Jena question everything she knows about herself, her family, and the world of her village.
The story was so gripping that I gobbled it up in a few days. I loved the fast, cleverly structured plot. Jena’s world is gradually puzzled together, slowly unveiling the depth of McKinlay’s imagination. The expert pacing kept me hooked to learn more right up until the final pages.
McKinlay’s writing is lyrical and measured. I loved the constant sensory descriptions of tunnelling into the mountain. Jena’s intuitive relationship with the mountain is beautiful to read. I can so clearly see her world through her eyes and get lost in its detail.
When she was through, she paused, waiting for the next girl. They were deep now, in the heart of the mountain. Around her, the earth pressed so tightly it was hard to tell where her body ended and the stone began.
– page 5
Even as an adult, A Single Stone is a riveting and rewarding read. It’s loaded with challenging themes. However, the story develops these ideas and progresses carefully through them to deliver a layered and stimulating plot. It combines a uniquely gritty and rich atmosphere with empathetic characters and a great plot to resonate with readers much older than its target early-teen audience. McKinlay’s perfectionism as a writer results in a haunting work of literature.