Book Review: The Ice Garden


The Ice Garden
By: Guy Jones
Reviewed by: Michele Byerly

Twelve-year-old Jess spends much of her life interacting with doctors and hospital staff due to her acute sun sensitivity. The full body covering she must wear outside her house prevents her from having normal friendships. During one hospital visit, she wanders into the room of a comatose boy named Davey and spends some time with him. On her next trip, she keeps her new friend company by reading him a story she wrote. Weary of being cooped up in her house all day, she begins sneaking out at night; then, she can wander through her neighborhood without fear of the blistering sunshine. One night in the park, she discovers a hedge that opens to a secret frozen world of ice, where it is always twilight, cool, and safe. She even makes a friend there, an ice-boy named Owen. As their friendship deepens over many visits, Jess shares details of her life, including her health condition. Owen responds with the gift of a piece of sculpted ice crystal that seems to bring healing properties. But this cure comes with a price: The ice garden is slowly melting, and so is Owen. Plus, dark forces in the garden work to expel Jess. She realizes she must choose between being a “normal” child and the health of her beloved ice garden. In the end, Jess’s parallel worlds converge, and she finds a way to be a good friend to both Owen and Davey. Young readers who feel isolated for any reason may connect with Jess, as themes of loneliness, otherness and friendship occur throughout the story. Readers may also develop compassion and empathy for the friendless Jess. Although most of the adult characters are not deeply developed, it is clear Jess and her mother have a close and stable relationship from which Jess can step into her adventures in the ice garden.

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