There isn't anything "very special" about 10-year-old Caleb Franklin and big brother Bobby Gene's hometown of Sutton, Ind. And that is exactly the problem--Caleb wants to "take on the whole world" but his Dad feels strongly that the Franklins be seen as "ordinary folks." Things take a turn for the extraordinary at the Fourth of July picnic, where Caleb and Bobby Gene trade their one-year-old sister, Susie, to Cory Cormier for a sack of fireworks. Susie is returned--"Your sister is not a form of currency," their Mom snaps--but the boys retain (secret) ownership of the fireworks.
Enter Styx Malone, a 16-year-old boy who has his own business cards ("Styx Malone: Anything Man") and slides "through the world like the air around him [is] greased." Styx introduces the younger boys to the Great Escalator Trade, in which items are exchanged for things of greater value until the final trade is worth significantly more than the first. Caleb and Bobby Gene are charmed into using their fireworks to do business with this mysterious older boy, unaware that Styx might have ulterior motives.
Reminiscent of now-classic works by Katherine Paterson, Natalie Babbitt and Lois Lowry, The Season of Styx Malone brings the darkness of fear and trauma into the bright sun of summer days. Caleb's first-person narration is optimistic, open and full of yearning for that intangible "more"; Bobby Gene is a perfectly designed counterpart to the adventurous Caleb; and Styx is a fully developed teen with deep layers of emotional and intellectual complexity. The Season of Styx Malone carries on a tradition of works for young readers that focus on weighty topics while emphasizing the warmth and joy life has to offer. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness