Scumble was my fourth book for the 48 hour book challenge. It's a companion book to Savvy (reviewed here). Scumble takes place several years after the events of Savvy, and features Mibs' cousin, Ledger Kale. Like everyone in his extended family, Ledge came into a special ability, a savvy, when he turned thirteen. A few weeks later, it's clear that Ledge's savvy involves destroying things - watches and windshield wiper blades explode when he's upset, and nails come rising up out of picnic tables.
When it becomes apparent, during a trip to the family homestead in Wyoming, that Ledge's savvy also destroys BIG things, his parents leave him on the ranch for the summer. Ledge's primary mission is to learn to scumble, to control his savvy and keep it from taking over his life. He struggles with other missions, too, however, like saving the ranch from foreclosure, and restoring a lost family heirloom. And maybe, just maybe, getting involved with a girl.
I'd heard mixed reviews of Scumble, and I did find that it took me a few chapters to get into it. But once I became invested in Ledge, I quite enjoyed it. A fun bonus of Scumble is getting a glimpse at Mibs and her siblings from Savvy, and seeing how they've grown and adapted (or not) to their own savvys. But Scumble is definitely a companion novel, not a sequel - Ledge's story is his own (though you wouldn't want to read the books out of order, because Scumble does give things away about Savvy).
I like Ledge. His struggles are those of every adolescent, albeit with a big twist. He needs to control his moods. He struggles with authority. He's interested in a girl, even as he tries not to be. He has rivalry with some of his cousins. And he worries about living up to his father's dreams, all the while figuring out how to separate those dreams from his own.
As with Savvy, the various savvys of the family members are creative and often entertaining. Uncle Autry's skills as a bug-whisperer are particularly fun. The prospect of having a mother with an obedience savvy, in contrast, is horrifying. One feels for Ledge.
Not all of the characters in Scumble are particularly well-developed. Ledge's twin cousins have no distinguishing features that I noticed, and the villain of the story, while quirky, feels a bit like a cartoon bad guy. But Ledge, his younger sister, Uncle Autry, and cousin Rocket are all solid. And many of the others have enough quirks (particularly through the savvys) to be memorable, even when not deep.
In any event, Scumble is good fun - a rousing adventure, filled with characters with unusual talents. Here are a couple of quotes, to give you a feel for the book:
"In my family, thirteenth birthdays were like time bombs, with no burning fuse of beeping countdown to tell you when to plug your ears, duck, brace yourself, or turn tail and get the hay bales out of Dodge." (Page 1)
"Everyone cheered as Fish and Mellie kissed at last. Everyone but me. The cheers set off a frenzied swirl of color. Hundreds of butterflies rose into the air around the couple in a Technicolor tornado, then scattered and split the scene, all orchestrated by Uncle Autry like some insect rodeo air show. The towering birch trees began to creek and groan, bending and swaying as Fish blasted the glad with a happy, rumbustious storm."
Ingrid Law's Savvy was about discovering the unique abilities within oneself. Scumble is about learning to control those abilities, turning what could be liabilities into strengths. The premise of the savvys, naturally, doesn't feel quite so fresh in this second book. But I think that kids will be able to relate to the coming to terms aspect of the book. And Ledge, and his adventures, are a lot of fun along the way. Recommended.
Publisher: Dial/Walden Media (@PenguinTeen)
Publication Date: August 17, 2010
Source of Book: Review copy
© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. All Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, and may result in my receiving a small commission on purchases (with no additional cost to you).