In her debut novel Savvy, Ingrid Law introduced us to the big, unconventional Beaumont family, in which each child manifests a unique super-power (called a “savvy”) on his or her thirteenth birthday. The challenge is to recognize what that savvy is and scumble it, or figure out how to control it, before something big happens. Otherwise people could get hurt; or, even worse, outsiders might find out about the family’s secret. In this sequel, we meet some of the Beaumonts again, as well as their cousins the O’Connells and the Kales. The birthday kid this time is Ledger “Ledge” Kale, whose special ability to “Bust! Things! Up!” literally brings down the house at a family wedding reception.
Suddenly Ledge’s hopes of gaining super-speed, so he can win a father-son half-marathon with his Dad, must now make way for a summer sentenced to the Flying Cattleheart Ranch near Sundance, Wyoming. There he joins other “defective misfits” in his family as they work out how to scumble their savvy. There’s cousin Rocket, whose ability to shoot lightning out of his fingertips has caused a lot of brownouts, fried circuitry, and even some bodily harm. There’s Rocket’s brother Samson, who was last seen blowing out the candles on his thirteenth-birthday cake, and now spends most of his time invisible. Like these guys, Ledge needs to master the fears, the anger, and other upsetting emotions that make it hard to control his gift. If only his power were good for something besides smashing things and making people mad at him…
But Ledge may have even bigger problems. On his first day in Sundance, he bumped into a local girl named Sarah Jane Cabot, who publishes her own weekly newspaper of the bizarre. From the moment they meet, SJ picks up the scent of a big scoop. Soon Ledge is torn between frustration at not being able to shake the girl off his trail, and the disturbing sense that he may not want to. Uncle Autry, the insect whisperer, certainly doesn’t want Ledge hanging around with the girl; and her father, the meanest, foreclosingest mortgage lender in town, wants Ledger around even less. The harder Ledge tries to make things right, the more trouble he causes—even after he starts to get a handle on how to use his savvy for good. By the time he realizes the truth about the junior journalist and her own special gift, it may be too late to save the ranch from an angry man with a wrecking ball.
Scumble is a funny, fast-paced, family-friendly adventure, filled with quirky characters and their unique magic. Besides a grip of suspense and a glow of emotional uplift, it also offers some youthful romance, and gently touches on themes relevant to these economically tough times. The combination of fantasy elements with Ledge’s athletic leanings could make this book equally attractive to jocks and nerds. And hey, if they can agree on anything, it must be good! A third book in this series, titled Switch, is promised for 2015.