Follow that Mouse is the newest release by YA sci-fi author Henry Melton.
Ranch Exit is a town that is too small to really be classified a town. It gains its name by the highway sign and is home to a one-room schoolhouse and a small spattering of residents. One of these residents is teenager Dot Comal, who personally loves her home and is quite defensive of it.
But in a place where nothing ever really happens, besides the continually odd signs that the town's enigmatic and strange billionaire hires Dot's father to put up around Ranch Exit, unusual occurrences are easily spotted. So when the animals begin to act erratically and more violently than ever before, Dot and her best friend Ned notice.
However, it's when Dot's own father and other residents of Ranch Exit start acting out of character, resorting to hostility and physical combat when they were previously known for their easygoing manner - Dot and Ned start to get really concerned. The old Paiute shaman that wanders around the town seems to know something is out of the ordinary, but only tells Dot to "heal the valley". Well, Dot has no idea how that is supposed to help... but she starts wondering if she needs to pay more attention to little Duncan (one of Ranch Exit's youngest children) and his "dwarf" that lives underground and maybe follow a certain mouse that seems quite persistent in getting her somewhere, despite being a, well, mouse.
As a big fan of Henry Melton's previous books Golden Girl and Pixie Dust, I was quite excited to read this new release and let me just say right off that I was not disappointed one bit!
In Dot Comal we have a very unique, charming, grounded protagonist - a refreshing change in YA. Even more rare is the truly tiny speck of a home town the entire novel takes place in. There is something honestly fun in reading such originality.
There is next to no technology in the Comal home, let alone all of Ranch Exit. Dot's house doesn't even have telephone - making Dot all the more sympathetic and relatable, especially with all the hometown pride Dot has.
Dot's likability is enhanced by her maturity, confidence, and niceness - so that when the quiet, surprisingly suspenseful atmospheric quality of Follow that Mouse kicks in, I am already invested in the characters.
The slow, steady build of tension builds in the early chapters, letting the plot gain traction and a quality of believability, even with its tiptoeing into fantasy territory (which anyone who reads my blog on a regular basis know is no problem with me!)
With the spooky sense of the novel, I begin to feel I am just as secluded from the world as the characters in Ranch Exit are! Follow that Mouse is sprinkled with interesting, seemingly factual info, while the mysterious impression of odd events turns more serious and gives way to a gripping, constantly evolving (literally!) story that is both intelligent and thought-provoking, disturbing and startling in its revelations.
Ned and Dot's relationship is comfortable and real, and the revealed villain has a classic, yet distinctive and creative feel to it - not in a comical sense, to be clear, as this villain is BAD.
I know I have not given much plot information, which might make it hard to decide if you'd like to read it - but I have to encourage you to realize the importance of being spoiler-free! This is a truly unpredictable, refreshing, and super smart YA sci-fi/fantasy novel that is entertaining, and at the same time expects you to exercise your brain.
Follow that Mouse is surprising right up to the end, and keeps you guessing just as long. I highly recommend it!!!
Quick note: There will be a special Friday review this week! So check back!!! :)