Have you ever been on a family vacation that you didn’t particularly want to be attending, especially as a teenager? If so, then you’ll know exactly where Darcy Pennington is coming from as you read the first book in The Gateway Chronicles called The Six by K.B. Hoyle. It’s a fun book where a teenager and her friends (or those kids she hangs out with who seem to want to be her friends, but she can’t get beyond her own weirdness to really let them in) travel through a magical portal to the land of Alitheia where they find out that the six of them have a special calling. It’s a great young adult read with plenty of imagination and drama to keep the reader entertained. The Six by K.B. Hoyle is a creative work about teenagers and their capabilities for mistakes, the start of an intriguing series, and a light lesson for readers.
In The Six, we find the story of Darcy Pennington who is on vacation with her family (although she’d rather not be there) to a family summer camp where one of her less than favorite friends from school vacations every year. Her actions and interactions with other characters seems to show her as a normal teenager, which is to say that she’s obnoxious, petulant, bratty, and pretty self-absorbed. Despite her flaws, she does make friends at the camp and they follow her through a magical portal to the world of Alitheia where the group learns that a 200-year old prophecy has predicted their arrival, and that they are to save the world. A terrible evil has drifted into Alitheia, and it is up to The Six to save everyone. After that setup, it’s hard to predict the adventures that follow, but it’s a nice surprise to find a not completely predictable read in the realm of young adult books. We learn a bit about Darcy in this book, mostly through her failings that bring some more problems to the group.
My favorite part of the book isn’t the main character or even the story of the kids who are saving the world – to me, the best part is the world of Alitheia. It’s one of those books that makes me wish that I had such an active imagination to paint a whole universe with unique creatures and characters that have never been thought of before – it truly is amazing, and the writing makes it so alive and breathing that you can easily picture it in your mind. The creatures that inhabit the world of Alitheia range from low animals who are your basic, every day animals, to high animals who have thoughts and can interact with humans. Then you have the humans. My favorite creature on Alitheia is the nark who we meet through Yahto Veli. Narks are unique in that they are actually two persons who inhabit the same body – there’s a day nark (Veli) and a night nark (Yahto). They’re really captivating because they’re not the same person, they even look different. They live in the same body and they communicate for a minute or two before the other takes over their consciousness, but otherwise they’re completely separate. It was so fun to work that one out in my brain! The characters and the world of Alitheia reminded me very strongly of the movie Avatar, but that might also have been because I read the book and watched the movie around the same time.
We learn a bit about the world of Alitheia and the people and animals who populate it in The Six, but it’s clearly the start of a series so we don’t end the book with all the answers. What we do find in the book is a complete adventure that Darcy leads us on – it’s not just a book that sets up the rest of the story, it’s a great story on its own. Of course, quite a bit of the book is of and about Darcy, so we learn more about her and what goes on with her than we do about some of the other and possibly wiser members of the group. While I would’ve loved to learn more about some of the rest, the book is clearly centered on Darcy, so I wanted to tell you a bit more about her.
Darcy is a petulant, bratty teenager who would rather alienate people than make good friendships, and I can pretty much relate. I think we all have one of those periods in our lives when we pushed the limits on polite and good social behaviour. For me, it definitely happened during my teenage years and I’m very thankful that it’s past. For teenagers reading this book, they may feel a bit compelled by the story of Darcy – they may recognize themselves in the worst of her behaviour. Unfortunately, as it commonly is with teenagers, they’re much more likely to recognize and criticize someone else, but still – one can hope. I will keep reading the series in the hope of learning a little more about the rest of the cast, as well as learning what other adventures will happen and if the world of Alitheia will be saved.
Beyond the teenage fumbling and the amazingly well described world in which The Six is set, there is also a subtle undertone of morals is observable, but I doubt that I would’ve picked up on it as a teenager. As a parent, I like knowing that my kids are reading (or hearing, as my boys are not yet reading on their own), books that are at least causing them to question their own morals. In The Six I feel confident that the lessons in the background that are being read are positive lessons that teach my boys good morals, but it’s not an overwhelming point of the story so it doesn’t interrupt the adventure or feel like too much pressure to be good.
Alitheia is a world of adventure and a hero journey for our cast of characters. Darcy begins as a self-centered teenager and at the end she comes to realize that there may be more to life than only picking friends that are popular with other kids. It will be a fun series to continue, and I’m actually going to have a review of the second book soon. While it is most definitely a young adult book, I think it’s also a great book for parents to read – it never hurts to have your imagination challenged. I find that it makes me a better, and more creative, mom to have my imagination challenged by my reading. The Six by K.B. Hoyle is a fantastically descriptive book that describes not only the world of Alitheia and the unique people who populate it, but also delves into the lives and challenges of teenagers, the choices they make, and the problems that they face.
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Disclosure: I received a free copy of the book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
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