The Turnaway Girls is set in Blightsend where singing is not allowed. The Masters — men and boys — make music with instruments. Women and girls trapped underground turn the music into gold. Twelve-year-old Delphernia Undersea hates her life, especially Mother Nine, the abusive caretaker.  Despiturnaway girls.jpgte the dangers, Delphernia sings in secret. Then one day a Master claims her and takes the young girl above ground where mysteries abound.

This elegantly told fantasy is like a poem stretched to bring meaning to your true self through music. Delphernia take center stage as the first-person narrator and like her, readers will at times be thoroughly confused by what is happening. Thankfully, all is explained by the climatic end. The final sixty pages gave the plot a needed push and saved the story.

Like myself, I’m sure many teachers and librarians will gush over the lyrical qualities of the book. The problem is the targeted MG age group may have a hard time wrapping themselves up in this fantastical tale. Regardless, I look forward to what comes next for this debut author.


Delphernia Undersea wants to sing. But everyone on Blightsend knows music belongs to the Masters — and girls with singing throats are swallowed by the sea.On the strange, stormy island of Blightsend, twelve-year-old Delphernia Undersea has spent her whole life in the cloister of turnaway girls, hidden from sea and sky by a dome of stone and the laws of the island. Outside, the Masters play their music. Inside, the turnaway girls silently make that music into gold. Making shimmer, Mother Nine calls it. But Delphernia can’t make shimmer. She would rather sing than stay silent. When a Master who doesn’t act like a Master comes to the skydoor, it’s a chance for Delphernia to leave the cloister. Outside the stone dome, the sea breathes like a wild beast, the sky watches with stars like eyes, and even the gardens have claws. Outside, secrets fall silent in halls without sound. And outside, Delphernia is caught — between the island’s sinister Custodian and its mysterious Childer-Queen. Between a poem-speaking prince and a girl who feels like freedom. And in a debut that glimmers with hope and beauty, freedom — to sing, to change, to live — is precisely what’s at stake.



  1. The cover does its job providing intrigue to what lies ahead for readers. Delphernia sings and in turn it raises your curiosity.
  2. Stereotyped gender roles and believing everything you hear are two of the powerful themes waiting for a discussion.
  3. The two antagonists, one above and one below ground,  give you the chills at their nastiness. Well done villains are hard to create, but these two were fantastic foils.
  4. The prince was an interesting character I wanted to know more about. Bly’s presence was always welcome and his upbringing brought a satisfied surprise.
  5. Beautifully written and many of the pages will have you rereading to take in the mastery of the written word.


The wind catches the door again and flings it shut over the boy’s head. He jumps, but he keeps climbing down. And then we are held, the three of us, in the cloister’s quiet: me, and Mother Nine, and a boy who could have killed me.


One polished draft and two rough drafts.

I’ve never done this before. I’ve always thought of myself as a one-project-at-a-time sort of writer. But if there’s anything I’ve learnt about writing (and life) it’s this: never assume anything you know about yourself is unchangeable. You can change anything if you really want to.

(For more about how Hayley writes three books at the same time, visit her blog).


I received a copy of the book for my honest review.  Make a comment if you have time. I enjoy reading all of them.

If you missed Friday’s post, I’m giving a away a four book series on The Renaissance. Click here to read all about it with details on how to enter.



About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...always striving to reach the next peak in my life and career.
This entry was posted in Middle Grade Book Reviews and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. This is a really unique story. I love the cover. Am not sure I understand what the girls do underground to “silently make the music into gold.” Will have to read the book!

  2. Gorgeous cover. The story sounds really different from anything else out there. Thanks for the review. I will be looking for this one.

  3. Sounds like an interesting world. But plot, not beautiful words, will be what gets the attention of young readers. Glad you enjoyed it.

  4. This cover is entrancing! I appreciate your sharing this title with us for MMGM as I don’t usually read in this genre. Thanks for your post.

  5. cleemckenzie says:

    I think young readers need exposure to the “beauty” of the language, so this one sounds very appealing.

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