Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Prophet of Yonwood

The Prophet of Yonwood

For ages 12 to
Yearling, 1994   ISBN: 978-0440421245

Nickie's world is very fragile at the moment. The threat of war hangs over the world and Nickie's father is away for work for an indefinite period of time. Nickie is lonely and she hates the city where she lives, a city where there is fear and ugliness everywhere. She is therefore delighted when her mother agrees to let her to go to Yonwood, North Carolina, with her aunt Crystal. Nickie's great-grandfather recently died in the small southern town and Crystal is going there to sort out his house and to put it on the market.

Nickie has high hopes for Yonwood and she comes up with three things that she wants to do while she is there. First of all she desperately wants her mother and aunt to keep her great-grandfather's house. It is a huge place full of odd things and Nickie cannot help feeling that life in Yonwood would be a lot better than the one she has in the city. Secondly, Nickie wants to fall in love, and thirdly she wants to do something to make the world a better place.

Nickie is fascinated to hear that Yonwood has its very own prophet. Apparently a woman called Althea Tower has seen the future and it is very grim indeed. Her visions are so terrible in fact that the poor lady has slipped into a kind of dream state. Her friend Mrs. Beeson is now the one who tells the people of Yonwood what Althea's rambling words mean. The essence of Mrs. Beeson's message is that the Yonwood townsfolk should live good, clean lives. If they do, they will be safe from terrorists and the dangers of a war.

Nickie is eager to join Mrs. Beeson's crusade and she sets about doing what she thinks is right. Unfortunately, her actions have unexpected, and painful, consequences and Nickie learns that all is not as it seems in Yonwood.

In this prequel to The City of Ember, Jeanne DuPrau explores the ways in which the quest for goodness can be twisted and turned into something that is alarming. Eager to do her part to fight against the evils of the world, Nickie joins something that is well meant perhaps, but ill conceived. Only by finding her own way and by making her own decisions can Nickie truly do what is right.

This is a powerfully written and insightful book which readers will remember long after the last page is read. The atmosphere in Yonwood is reminiscent of real times in history, such as the witch hunts in New England and the anti-communist hysteria of the cold war era. Though Yonwood's efforts are on a much smaller scale, the idea is the same – to subdue people who do not play by the rules.