Sixteen-year-old Ben Larsson is furious at his dad. Lars, a pony-tailed folklorist with a booming voice and an anxious desire to please, has unexpectedly reappeared in Ben's life, only to drag the sullen, motherless teen to England for a "clean start." Ben treats his prodigal father with bouts of foul language and belligerent silence. But he's about to discover that his problems at home are not so very important--compared with helping an eight-foot, leaf-garbed tree man save fairyland from a renegade prince.
In The Turning, fantasy meets the young-adult problem novel head on, with mixed results. Chan, best known for her realistic teen fiction and historical novels such as The Carved Box, ably depicts the social minefield of an English high school. The types are recognizable--the insecure bully, the waif-like social misfit who sees more than others realize, the teacher who won't listen--yet are rendered with a degree of freshness. Chan's Goth-inspired world of Fey, moreover, is boldly original and truly frightening. Jazriel, the leather-jacketed biker prince, neatly blends traditional fairy lore with the dark side of contemporary teen culture. More often than not, though, the novel falters in the intersection of its two worlds. Ben, for instance, seems to accept the gigantic Wyliff and his hob sidekick, Billy Blind, almost too readily, while the Green Man's periodic stream-of-consciousness musings lend a jarring effect to the early school passages. Chan certainly doesn't shy away from tough issues and her conclusion is both startling and sad. But for a more seamless merging of young-adult fiction with the fantasy genre, try Alan Garner's classic novel The Owl Service. --Lisa Alward