Thirteen-year-old Jalen doesn’t believe in horoscopes, especially since her sign, Sagittarius, never seems to fit her. She goes to see an astrologer, Madame Beausoleil, on her birthday anyway since the annual visit is a tradition she has always kept with her grandmother. This year, Jalen goes with her friend Ellie since her grandmother is in the hospital dying of cancer. It’s not the same with Ellie, and Jalen is just as disappointed in her horoscope reading as ever, but she finds a dusty old book in the crowded gift shop that she feels compelled to have. It’s called Keypers of the Zodiack and it’s locked with a chain. Jalen can’t help wondering if unlocking the book might help her to unlock the mystery of who she is as well.
Author Kristin O’Donnell Tubb’s exciting new middle grade fantasy, The 13th Sign, is a departure from her two earlier books, both works of historical fiction (Selling Hope, Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different). Here, she starts with an intriguing premise: What if there were a 13th sign in the zodiac that has been hidden from humans? When another sign is squeezed in, almost everyone’s astrological sign changes to make room for it. Tubb is adept at creating the main characters’ distinct personalities and then altering them when the 13th sign is unlocked. But these changes create all kinds of problems, and Jalen and her friends set out to put the 13th sign back under lock and key.
The story moves along at nice pace: fast enough to keep readers turning the pages but contemplative enough to keep them thinking. While we realize that Jalen must seal away the 13th sign in the end, there are still many surprises as the adventure unfolds, with a chance at a sequel to come. This inventive fantasy, set in the real world of New Orleans, will appeal to a wide audience.