Amy Wilson, A Girl Called Owl, illustrator Helen Crawford-White

Macmillan, 2017, ISBN 978-1-5098-3246-0

Owl has lived pretty happily with her hippyish artistic mother for all her thirteen years, but has always been frustrated that she will not tell her anything about her father. That frustration has recently become agonising. Her best friend Mallory, who has what Owl views as a delightfully normal life with her two parents, suggests pressing her mother for more information, but it isn't forthcoming. Things start to change for both of them. Owl finds herself crying tears of ice. Mysterious frost patterns appear on her skin. She is freezing to the touch. The wooden owl on her bedpost talks to her. Meanwhile, Mallory's seemingly happy life is shattered by her parents' separation. She no longer gives Owl the support she used to. Alberic, a mysterious new student at their school, keeps staring at Owl in a weird way, and follows her around. To her amazement and initial disbelief, she discovers that her father is Jack Frost, and that she shares some of his powers. Like him, she can turn things to ice. Like him, she doesn't always use her supernatural strengths wisely. Their first meeting is very disquieting. Alberic too turns out to be half-human, half-spirit. He tries to help her come to terms with her new abilities, and to warn her to use them with care. Together they witness a get-together of the supernatural spirits who look after - or fail to look after - the world. They see petty jealousies flare into an epic battle. Gradually Owl learns that while her new powers can be frightening she can also learn to tame them and turn them to good use.

An impressive coming-of-age debut novel, A Girl Called Owl combines elements of mystery, adventure, romance, fantasy and folklore, while set in the contemporary world. Owl is a convincing protagonist, with believable feelings, not least anger: towards her mother, towards Mallory, towards Alberic and towards her wayward father, who for all his supernatural powers behaves in dangerous and annoyingly childish ways. The stresses and strains of family relationships and friendships are realistically portrayed. The simple monochrome illustrations are very atmospheric.