In the fine tradition of young adult adventure fare from the ’80s and ’90s—where locales are exotic, transportation incidental, friendships instantaneous, and parents largely out of the picture—Grace Bridges’s RotoVegas follows seventeen-year-old Anira on a family-vacation-turned-paranormal-struggle in the New Zealand tourist town of Rotorua, famed for its geothermal vibrancy. When the hot spring behind Anira’s hotel imbues her with heightened awareness, she begins to discover others who’ve been similarly gifted. Only by joining forces can they prevent a malicious plot to transform the quaint village into an international gambling mecca. Appropriately enough for a story sunk deep in Maori animism, the sense of place is lovingly grounded, and the style flows like water. Engaging characters coax us through cheesiness to a clever climax.
Best for: Young adults seeking a character-driven romp through a unique urban fantasy setting.
Discern: Intermittent mild language, brief violence, unreconstructed animistic spirituality, and the unfortunate implications of the fact that the mothers in the cast all seem to be single.