PERL: The Awakening
Melissa Flesher (2020)
Reviewed by Megan for Reader Views Kids (2/2021)
Melissa Flesher’s “PERL: The Awakening” introduces readers to a special young girl named Perl. As a baby, Perl surprised a local order of monks, called the Brotherhood of the Quill, by washing ashore as a passenger on a beached whale. Ximu, the head monk, suspects that something larger than coincidence is at work, and believes that the baby girl might be the subject of a prophecy which they’ve known of for years. Ximu and the Brotherhood of the Quill take the girl and raise her like their own child. At 12-years-old, Perl has a special ability to see through to a person’s true essence, which takes the shape of an animal. When a mystical being from another realm comes to their island, Perl learns the truth: there is great magic in the world, and she has special powers and abilities that are meant to help her act as an agent of the Light Realm in order to fight away a monstrous evil. To learn who she truly is, however, Perl must leave her beloved home and the Brothers who raised her, so that she can join a special kind of army who must band together to save the world.
“PERL: The Awakening” has a light, childlike tone that is inquisitive and exploratory. The language is simple, yet wonderfully imaginative, and the images painted by the details Flesher input into the book are strong and impactful. The tone and pace of the book, to me, are reminiscent of books such as Rick Riordan’s “Percy Jackson” series. There are a lot of characters and the plot is constantly twisting and turning as readers are brought deeper into the world of the Protectors of the Light Realm, but there is also a lot of energy in the way Perl is built as a protagonist.
I think the subject matter of the book is highly significant given current events. It is not too hard to believe that someday we might end up in a society like that of Mont Michel, where the masses have technology literally embedded and projected into their skin, and consumption of natural resources and the production of waste contributes to an environment that is suffering as a result. We are already seeing these kinds of results in our contemporary lives.
While I was reading “PERL: The Awakening” I kept thinking that this would be a book I’d love to see kids read in school. It might even be a great way to integrate reading and literature into science classes during units on the environment and pollution. I’d particularly recommend it for students in junior high and maybe early high school, such as 12-14 or so. This is the age where you really start to become aware of the greater world around you and realize what’s really going on. The childhood blinders start coming off and you start seeing things for what they are and start forming opinions. Educating kids about the dangers of climate change at this stage could really help ensure that they form environmentally healthy habits, and that they will encourage others to do so too.
Overall, I found “PERL: The Awakening” to be quite enjoyable and fun. Though aimed toward younger teens and tweens, the book can certainly still be appreciated by older and more mature audiences for its themes and messages. In fact, it is because of those themes and messages that I would encourage older audiences to read it alongside the younger audiences, so that we can all learn and understand together.