She Who Knows: A Tale of the Heart
by Barbara Bras
Sojourn Publishing

"'Don’t get me wrong, no one is mean to me or anything like that. I mean, you know I am still an outsider.'"

At the early age of five, young Cassandra is separated from her family. When her mother passes away, it is decided that the best thing for Cassandra’s heart defect is to go live in Maui at her grandparents’ old mountain home, but her father remains in Oahu to run his law practice. Growing up sheltered and alone, Cassandra feels isolated and unhappy. When she has a strange dream five years later, she encounters the Menehune—the fabled tiny, indigenous people of Hawaii—and accidentally inhales a tiny dragon. When her dream ends, she begins to be able to hear people’s thoughts somehow, an ability that changes Cassandra’s life by getting her into a normal school, introducing her to new friends and admirers, and reconnecting her with family members from her past.

This book covers a lot of themes common in young adult literature but does so inventively and in a refreshing way. The setting of Hawaii and the infusion of Polynesian mythology into this story provide a fresh take on being an outsider and maturing into a social creature after a childhood that is awkward and difficult. Because the audience meets Cassie as a child and then follows her journey to womanhood, she is a protagonist that is easy to relate to and fun to cheer for. Combining real-world human emotions and life-like characters with a dash of the fantastical keeps the reader guessing and excited to see how Cassandra matures and how she deals with the obstacles set in her path. Oscillating between themes of love and loss, or solitude and socializing, this story is a wonderful character-driven experience that readers will find enchanting and endearing.

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