A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Since the globe becomes a mix of different time periods, readers can think about what a fractured world would look like and what kind of chaos this would create. We also get to ask questions such as: What if the U.S. Civil War never happened? What if the U.S. left the Great Plains states and beyond to the Native Americans? Also, Sophia visits Spain during a disease outbreak. While the disease isn't real, how humans react to this fear draws parallels to recent history.
Chapter 39 includes a profound passage on growing up: "Was this always part of growing older? Sophia wondered. Realizing the world was not obliged to give you what you wanted, and more importantly, deciding what you would do and how you would feel once the realization arrived. Would you sit back and resent the world? Would you make peace with it, and accept the unfairness without rancor? Or would you try to find and take what the world had not provided? Maybe all three, she reflected, at different moments." Other themes include dealing with loss and the journeys taken toward healing.
Positive Role Models
Sophia is so guided by her desire to find her parents that she lies to strangers and those close to her and trusts anyone who says they will help her. She learns hard lessons about this when she gets stranded by herself. Her bravery, resilience, and smarts help her out of tough situations. Theo also does plenty of lying, including hiding evidence in a murder case, but his determination to free the wrongly accused at any cost to himself is admirable. So is his stand against his abuser from his childhood. He also decides to forgive himself when he can't fix everything himself.
Violence & Scariness
A contagious disease outbreak causes many to lose their will to live. Many people are rounded up and quarantined, and three men die in close proximity to main characters who don't catch the disease. A girl recalls a story of her sick mother wandering off before she can infect her daughter. A man is found stabbed to death. Strange sea creatures attack a ship and her crew at night with many lives lost; giant birds attack and are killed. People are sentenced to walk into another world where they could lose their faces and be killed by poisonous thorns; a horse is killed by the thorns. A man is shot with an arrow, and another is killed with a sword. Three others are tortured by fire. Crows pick over a dead body. Flashbacks to abuse against one of the main characters -- he was enslaved, his arm bitten by a dog. A few instances of arson involving a tavern and a docked boat. Hordes of people run for their lives when a wave of molasses explodes from a boat during a riot.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Some flirting by teens and adults.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults drink wine.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Golden Specific is the second book in the Mapmakers Trilogy, following The Glass Sentence. Publishers are marketing this series to ages 10 and up. Although the maturity of the content is about right for the age, this story is pretty complex; readers 12 and up are more likely to stick with it. In search of her parents, the resourceful main character, Sophia, lies to get information and ends up stranded by herself in a foreign land where people are dying of a strange disease. There are many stories of people being rounded up and quarantined before they die, including one of a girl whose mother wanders off before she can infect her daughter. More violence in the story includes a man found dead, another killed with a sword, sea creatures killing men in a shipwreck, giant birds attacking, arson and riots, and people sentenced to walk into a world where they can lose their faces (high creep factor) and get stabbed by poisonous thorns. Readers fully immersed in this world full of fractured time periods can ponder a whole lot of what-ifs: What if the U.S. Civil War never happened or the United States never expanded West?
Is It Any Good?
In this sequel, Sophia's lone journey across the ocean to a distant time with a mysterious magical world trapped inside is just one of the intriguing mysteries packed in its 500-plus pages. There's also the murder of the New Occident prime minister in Uncle Shadrack's house, the disappearance of healers called the Eerie, the discovery of a book on a ship written in the future, and so much more.
Author S.E. Grove loves to stack up the mysteries and does a better job in THE GOLDEN SPECIFIC than she did in The Glass Sentence, balancing mystery with almost enough clues to lead the reader along. But still expect some head-scratching over how everything fits together. This sequel is a treat for fans of rich fantasy and will be enjoyed by adults too.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.