There are few books that have the ability to rip my heart to shreds they way this one did. Sure, I’ll shed a few tears here or there for my favorite character, but Kacey Vanderkarr almost isn’t fair in this novel. In the first 50 pages, Onna’s life is already falling to pieces, and it only continues to go downhill. Her strength and bravery is evident throughout the novel, and it kills me to see her hurt like this. Which brings me to the “solution” to her pain: Everett.
Everett is her Comforter. He is the mysterious young man, sent by the even more mysterious Guides, who shows up just when Onna’s suffering begins. He seems pretty creepy, probably because he knows things he shouldn’t (like where she lives) and seems to be able to read her mind; but he makes her feel better, so I can’t really begrudge her him.
Hunter is the comic relief a novel this heavy needs desparately. Without her, this book would honestly be too depressing. Hunter was a always a great friend to Onna, but watching her mature into a better, more reliable person is definitely a highlight.
The plot moves fast in this novel. You don’t have to wait long for it to get exciting, and once it does, there are few opportunities for you to come up for air. The novel flows beautifully and Vanderkarr’s writing is gorgeous. I’ve read every novel (and short story) she’s published and it’s been such a joy to watch her improve. By the end of this novel I found I had a greater appreciation for the amazing people in my life, and for how short life can be.
It definitely didn’t hurt that the setting of this novel is very real for me: I’ve been to Swartz Creek. It’s a real town in real Michigan. I’ve even been to the Sunken Gardens that Onna and Everett visit and which the book is named after. My sister and I even played the same game as Onna and Everett on the stones (and if you don’t think what happened to Onna is some of the realest foreshadowing, I think you’re crazy). If you ever find yourself in Mid-Michigan, it’s definitely worth it to look up the Tyrone Sunken Gardens. It’s a gorgeous location.
The only thing I disliked was how little is revealed about these mysterious Guides and their plans for Onna and Everett. But worry not! I have it on good authority that Stepping Stones 2 (of 3) will be here in the not-too-distant future!
- 5/5 Stars; would re-read fo’ sho’
- May be triggering
- Will rip your heart out and stomp on it
- Vanderkarr’s writing is gorgeous
- 1st of 3 novels
You can buy Stepping Stones on Amazon here.