The Prophet of Yonwood
by Jeanne DuPrau
Nickie Randolph’s great-grandfather has died, leaving the family his grand old house in Yonwood, North Carolina. Nickie travels to Yonwood with her Aunt Crystal to fix up the house to sell it. Nickie’s mother can’t come because she has to work; Nickie’s father is away, working on a secret government project. But Nickie secretly hopes that she can find a way to convince her family to keep the house instead of selling it. Nickie has an idyllic vision of living in a small town with her family. In Yonwood, she believes, the impending war will be far away and she and her family will be safe.
But Yonwood is not as she expected it to be. On the surface, it seems like an average rural small town. But Nickie begins to see strange things happening, and to suspect that something is going on under the surface. She learns that a woman in Yonwood, Althea Tower, has had a vision of the war, and that the town considers Althea to be a prophet. Everyone in the town believes that they will remain safe as long as they follow the instructions of the Prophet, as interpreted by the town matriarch, Mrs. Beeson. Nickie comes to believe this as well, and is determined to avoid sin at all cost.
Avoiding sin turns out to be harder than Nickie expected, and she discovers that it’s not alway easy to know the “right” thing to do.
The Prophet of Yonwood is a loose prequel to The City of Ember and The People of Sparks, although except for the war, the connection isn’t obvious until the end of the book. Like its predecessors, (in publication, if not in time) The Prophet of Yonwood is a fascinating exploration of the social forces at work in a small, semi-closed society, and what happens when change comes to that society. It’s also in many ways a traditional dystopian novel; what seems idyllic on the surface turns out to have a disturbing core. The characters are interesting and well-developed, although I really miss Lina and Doon. Nickie is a good character, but she can’t match those two for interest.
Each of the books in this series has been very different from the others, and I’ve enjoyed all of them greatly. DuPrau is a talented writer who excels at creating characters that you care about, and situations that make you think.