Hannah wakes up the morning after her seventeenth birthday to find that a frightening change has occurred in her body overnight. Her blue eyes have become golden snake eyes, slit and all. Another day, a tail appears; yet another, fangs. A motivated student, who wants nothing more than to graduate with honors and go to a prestigious college, Hannah is terrified and at a loss. Her mother clearly has a past she is not eager to divulge; her father died years ago; and her caring grandparents live far away. Hannah’s main emotional support comes from her older brother, Gabe — a warm, caring, funny, comfortably gay young man who is willing to devote time, energy, and intense devotion to a sister who needs him. Eventually, Gabe must brave danger and the unknown in order to support Hannah as her unexplained symptoms continue to emerge.
Hannah and Gabe’s mother’s mysterious past gradually begins to take shape as the secrets she has been keeping from her children — secrets that reach back through generations, across oceans, and through the barriers of the occult — are revealed one detail at a time. Filled with fantasy, superstition, and folklore, and with a uniquely Jewish spin, From Dust, a Flame ventures into daunting but fascinating territory. Breaking an ancient curse is a task that requires courage, determination, loyalty, and love. Hannah’s awakening sexuality, and stirrings of exciting, new, bisexual possibilities play their parts in Hannah’s development from sheltered child to young woman who understands that there are hidden worlds, yet unexplored, that might change her life in ways she could never have imagined.
An unusual book that integrates paranormal occurrences with Jewish history and family drama, From Dust, a Flame will command attention and maintain suspense throughout.
Michal Hoschander Malen is the editor of Jewish Book Council’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A former librarian, she has lectured on topics relating to literacy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.