I loved this book because it uses the fantasy as a way to work the deeper emotional themes, but never backs away from the essential realism of the characters. They have crushes, some requited and some not, they have secrets, they deal with their grief and emotions in powerful or childish ways. The things they learn and the things they have to do don't come for free; at the end of the book both they and their world have changed fundamentally.
This is the second year Karen Healey appears as a Cybils YA Fantasy and Science Fiction finalist, and she's probably enough reason for me to love this award. I haven't pushed this book on my seventh grader because I think it's a bit adult for him; the tensions and relationships are clearly high school rather than junior high based. I'm looking forward to whatever else Healey decides to write.