The Finisher by David Baldacci
Macmillan Children's Books, 2014. ISBN 9781447263005.
Recommended for readers 11 years +. Themes: Fantasy, Adventure. The Finisher revolves around the life of a 14 year old girl named Vega Jane, and her life in the small village of Wormwood. Life in Wormwood is portrayed as bleak for most of its residents and Vega's situation is similar to reality for girls of her age in many parts of the world. She is considered moderately well-educated having attended 'Learning' until she was 12 at which time she secured an apprenticeship in one of the village's few industries. At Stacks she works as a 'finisher' who applies the final touches to luxury goods intended for sale to Wormwood's few affluent residents. We learn early in the story that Vega's parents have fallen into a mysterious coma and are in a nursing home leaving her to support her younger brother John.
Wormwood is surrounded by a wild land known as The Quag which is inhabited by all manner of terrifying monsters. Entry in to The Quag has been deemed so dangerous that it is illegal and this, combined with an overwhelming fear of the monsters within, prevents residents from ever trying to leave Wormwood.
The Finisher opens with Vega witnessing her mentor at Stacks fleeing into The Quag, pursued by village officials. He leaves her a number of hidden items including a map and a journal which lead her to believe that there are worlds beyond The Quag. This story has many twists as more of Wormwood's mysterious past is revealed. Vega is a strong female character whose resilience and determination elevate her from the life of mundane factory worker to village heroine.
Author, David Baldacci, has published 27 novels but is famous primarily for his adult works, several of which have been adapted for film and television. David is also noted for his philanthropic activities, in particular the Wish You Well Foundation established by he and his wife to promote family and adult literacy in the United States.
The Finisher is an excellent example of fantasy/adventure genres for children aged 11+ and while I have been unable to find any mention of it being the first in a series, the open ending and a number of unanswered mysteries lead me to believe that this is the author's intention. Fans of the children's series Monster Blood Tattoo by D.M. Cornish are likely to be equally as intrigued by The Finisher.