Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Spider Ring by Andrew Harwell

It may have taken me a while to get around to Andrew Harwell's juvenile fantasy, The Spider Ring, but I'm glad I kept it in the TBR pile. It's an excellent novel about a young girl who felt like an outcast, abandoned by friends, who discovered revenge wasn't quite what she expected.

Maria Lopez' mother worked hard as a park ranger in Florida, but Maria never could dress like her fellow students in eighth grade. While Maria's younger brother, Rafi, had a well-off friend, the girls in Maria's class made fun of her second-hand, patched clothes. Maria did have one friend, Derek, but he wasn't in the class where she was bullied. And, then there was the woman Maria really loved and admired, her grandmother, Esme.

Grandma Esme loved spiders, and taught her grandchildren to respect them. Never kill spiders because "A spider never forgets". When Grandma Esme died, she left Maria her spider-shaped ring, a ring that changed Maria's life. She found she had the ability to call spiders, to ask them for favors. And, when she used them for revenge, she called the attention of a powerful woman who threatened her and her family, the Black Widow.

Harwell's novel has a subtle message for readers, subtle because it's told in lessons from Esme to her granddaughter. "People with gifts like ours must always choose between doing what is right and what is easy." It's a story of an outcast with a chance for power, caught in a web. The story is an engrossing fantasy. And, it's an excellent story for the target audience, readers age eight to twelve or so.

Andrew Harwell's website is

The Spider Ring by Andrew Harwell. Scholastic Press. 2015. ISBN 9780545682909 (hardcover), 224p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.