Every good young adult book needs a strong adolescent female heroine, and Guardian Spirit has one in Sadie Madison. Despite the challenges she has faced in her twelve short years, or perhaps because of them, Sadie maintains a resilient, practical core that propels her through her mother’s decision to run away from an abusive husband with Sadie and her younger brother.
The setting of Guardian Spirit is as much a part of the story as the drama that unfolds, offering the reader a vivid look at the mountains of North Carolina and giving the physical surroundings a role in sheltering this family both physically and spiritually. The depiction of the Cherokee people in the more mystical elements of the narrative does seem like a rehash of stereotypes, but nonetheless adds richness and depth as seen through the eyes of a twelve-year-old girl who is eager to learn and experience the natural world around her. Sadie discovers that each of her family members has a guardian spirit that watches over them and can help unlock their own special gifts.
Many women who choose to flee their abusers find themselves isolated and frightened, and this is certainly true for the Madisons, but a community of sorts begins to create itself around them as they venture out to meet their practical needs. It is ultimately their willingness to accept help and honor the mysterious signs that continue to present themselves that keeps this family safe.
While there are some difficult themes of abuse and suicide in the book, they are handled with honesty and delicacy and do not detract from the underlying story of this family who is learning to trust that creating a new life for themselves is possible. Guardian Spirit will entertain young adult and adult readers alike with its interesting twist on the issue of domestic violence.