Declan Lynch, the protagonist of Lesley Choyce’s new novel-in-verse, is a relatively straightforward 16-year-old. He lives in a (deliberately) generic North American city with his parents – his father is a university physics professor and his mother owns a New Age store, Spiritual Solutions. He attends a public high school, and he has a few friends. The one unusual thing about Declan is that he hears voices. He refers to them as “imaginary friends” and recounts how they urge him “to do crazy things / like / make parachutes out of sheets / and jump from / the shed roof.”
Everything changes for Declan when a new voice arrives. Not only is the voice that of a girl, but “It didn’t seem like a voice inside. / I was sure it was someone talking.” Unlike the other voices, which Declan admits are “really / just me / or parts of me,” Rebecca, the new interlocutor, assures Declan that she is real, and that she has built a bridge to him. When Rebecca asks Declan for help, he begins to puzzle out where she might be, and what he can do to reach her. His journey to locate Rebecca leads him to County Sligo, Ireland, where Declan has an uncle, Seamus. There, the boy immerses himself in history and myth, in a terrain of “thin places” where the human world and the spirit world almost meet.
Thin Places is a powerful novel, its strength amplified by its form. While some readers may initially be put off by the idea of a novel written in verse, Choyce’s poetry is accessible and straightforward, rooted firmly in the narrative and Declan’s voice. The terse language is largely shorn of extraneous detail, leaving a distillation of story that is propulsive and immersive.
With little to distract from the emotional and narrative elements of the text, readers get a vivid sense of Declan’s character. The revelation of Rebecca’s story – and the nature of her relationship to Declan – is powerful and emotionally rewarding, ringing with a primal, mythic force. A perfect novel for teen readers, Thin Places is a book many adults will also find rewarding.