The Children’s Book Review | June 6, 2017
Written by Katie Bayerl
Age Range: 14-18
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers (2017)
What to Expect: Supernatural, Magic-Realism, Religion, Romance
The best fantasy fiction leaves you wondering what was real and what was not: Katie Bayerl’s A Psalm for Lost Girls is one of the more skillful examples of this that I have come across in a long time. The story combines gritty reality with a surreal and frightening suggestion of supernatural forces, outside of our control, but shaping every aspect of our lives. Even more chilling is the suggestion that runs throughout the story that it is human interference, more than any supernatural interference, that robs individuals of control and autonomy.
Tess da Costa is not only a normal seventeen-year-old – she is also a genuine Saint, capable of helping others with the information provided to her by angelic voices. However, when her neighbor’s six-year-old daughter goes missing, even Tess’s prayers are not enough to locate her. The strain of responsibility and failure prove too much to bear, and Tess da Costa dies of a heart attack – the result of an undetected congenital birth-defect. When the missing girl is found, alive, at one of Tess’s shrines, however, it is celebrated as a miracle, and Tess is on her way to being officially canonized by the Church. She is celebrated in the press as the little girl’s savior, and public attention shifts away from the kidnapper, towards the miraculous recovery of the child, Ana. For Tess’s sister and boyfriend, however, the publicity and hype are almost unbearable: robbed of her reality, they feel her being stripped of humanity as the media and public claim her as their own. Even worse, they are horrified that justice and healing are being denied to Ana – the very opposite of what Tess would have wanted, and what the angels – if they really existed – were trying to achieve. Determined to regain for themselves a true memory of the girl they loved, they set out to discover the truth – about Tess, and about Ana’s kidnapper. It is painful, and heart-breaking, and deeply disturbing, but in the end the truth is all that matters.
The feeling of helplessness is not only a driving force behind religious belief – it is also a fundamental aspect of being a teenager on the path to adulthood. This analogy is what gives A Psalm for Lost Girls its power, making it not only a gripping detective thriller, but also a moving exploration of the human condition of helplessness.
About Katie Bayerl
When Katie Bayerl isn’t penning stories, she coaches teens and nonprofits to tell theirs. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts and has taught creative writing in schools and a variety of community settings. Katie has an incurable obsession with saints, bittersweet ballads, and murder. A Psalm for Lost Girls is her first novel.
A Psalm for Lost Girls, by Katie Bayerl, was reviewed by Dr. Jen Harrison. Discover more books like A Psalm for Lost Girls by following along with our reviews and articles tagged with Fantasy, Katie Bayerl, Magic-Realism, Mystery, Romance, and Supernatural.