Agathea Fulstropp is a lonely 11-year-old girl, a bit on the moody side, and more than a little spoilt.
She is looking forward to a luxury break in the Caribbean with her parents, but is livid when they announce that the trip has to be cancelled due to work commitments! So instead of spending six weeks sunning herself on a tropical beach, Thea – as she insists on being called – finds herself unceremoniously packed up, and sent off to stay with a grandfather she barely knows for the entire summer!
But it turns out to be the best summer of her life when her grandfather has a strange reunion with a mysterious childhood friend, and she is given the opportunity of a lifetime.
To visit a world beyond the stars, and become Earth’s first student to be enrolled in an experimental Inter-Planetary Education Programme at the Firestone Academy, where lessons in telepathy, mind-reading and astral projection are the norm.
Things, however, are not as straightforward as they seem. One of her fellow students makes no secret of the fact that he despises her, and will stop at nothing to make her leave…she is having increasingly disturbing vivid dreams…and just who is that hideously deformed cave creature, and more to the point, what does it want with her?
An Inter-Planetary Education Programme on a planet named Aruuliah? Can I please volunteer as tribute? Linda David’s The Firestone Crystal was a very enjoyable and exciting read, with unexpected twists and turns at every page. I’m sure that this thrilling novel would be something that my twelve year old self would have very much loved.
It reminded me a bit of the Harry Potter series, actually. The story centered upon a girl named Thea, who was chosen for the Inter-Planetary Programme—along with several other children from 60 other planets. Thea had no idea about its existence at all, but she agreed to go because she was excited by the opportunity. She was quite selfish and stubborn at the start, but I grew to love her as the story went on and her character developed into a more complex person. Thea has a impulsive personality, but that was able to help her a lot. After all, she wouldn’t have participated in the program at all if it wasn’t for her spontaneous attitude!
One of my favorite characters was Titus, Thea’s grandfather. His no-nonsense attitude reminded me of my own grandmother. He may not show affection often with his tough exterior, but he really does care for his grandchild.
“I trust you had a pleasant trip,” he said as they fell into step beside him.
Thea nodded enthusiastically, heart still pumping with excitement, while Titus simply snorted beneath his breath. He felt as though he had just been on one of those awful theme-park rides he was always seeing advertised on telly. He’d had to spend pretty much the entire journey with his eyes closed, trying valiantly to hold onto the contents of his stomach!
“It seems to be a pretty roundabout way of getting here,” he grumbled, “wouldn’t it have been easier to have one of those…those portal things right here? It would have saved a hell of a lot of time, not to mention being a lot easier on my nerves!”
Don’t you just love him?
Although the pacing of the story was a bit too fast for me at times, it was good for me overall. Another thing that I appreciated was the author’s writing style. Linda made sure to include detailed descriptions and adjectives at every sentence, something that I feel is sorely lacking in many books today.
The story also managed to touch upon issues of discrimination in society today, which often lead to the people on the receiving end of such feeling insecure and vulnerable. As an African-American, Thea revealed later on in the story why she didn’t have much friends back home on earth. She felt that she was different from them due to her physical features, and was afraid that the other kids would judge her as well for them. Thus, she resolved to be mean to them and push them away. Thea reasoned that it was better for them to hate her because of her unpleasantness rather than her skin color. I think that was the part that helped me to understand and appreciate her character the most.
The plot is most definitely unique. With a traitor in their midst, the Academy felt unsafe, especially for the students. There’s probably a 0.0000000001 chance that you’ll find out who the guilty offender is. But after all, guessing is a part of the fun!
Overall, I would recommend this novel for children from ages 9-12. Kudos to Linda for the originality of her plot and setting and for her creativity. After all, it’s only in the Firestone Crystal wherein you can find a school with a machine that serves you whatever food you want as long as you ask!