By Sophia Lo, Teen Volunteer
5 out of 5 stars
Fans of Esperanza Rising are already familiar with author Pam Muñoz Ryan, and her newest book, Echo, does not disappoint. This novel is full of music with a dash of mystique and magic.
Echo begins with a boy Otto, who gets lost in the forest. Here, three sisters, Eins, Zwei, and Drei, help him find his way home after infusing their magic in a simple harmonica. Their spirits are held in the instrument, and the harmonica becomes a central part of the story.
The rest of the novel is sectioned into three parts. The first follows Friedrich in Germany during Hitler’s rise to power. In Pennsylvania during the Great Depression, the second section features Mike and his brother, Frankie as they make their way from The Bishop’s Home for Friendless and Destitute Children to an initially unwelcome adoption. Finally, the third and final section introduces readers to Ivy, a Mexican-American who faces hostility during World War II.
All three characters are united by their love for music and the harmonica, which is passed from one to another. By the end of the novel, their stories have all intertwined with each other, and readers are taken back to Otto, who finds own his happy ending.
Although Echo is juvenile fiction, all readers can certainly enjoy this book. It’s easy to become attached to the characters; Muñoz Ryan does a phenomenal job of developing them. Her characters struggle with conflict around them and their own insecurities while being compassionate and hopeful. We see the determination of Friedrich as he hatches a plan to save his father from a Nazi work camp, we see Mike’s love for his brother, Frankie, as he tries to give Frankie a better life, even at his own expense, and we see Ivy’s kindness as she plants flowers to make the Yamamotos’ house beautiful while the American government keeps the family at a Japanese internment camp.
Muñoz Ryan’s description also plays a large role in what sets Echo apart. Her vivid descriptions of music are lyrical and mellifluous. As a musician, I am enamoured by the way Muñoz Ryan is able to capture the sounds of music in words. Especially for younger readers, Muñoz Ryan’s description will paint a clear, rich picture of the multiple characters and the events in the novel.
The only thing that was disappointing about Echo was the ending seemed a little rushed. Each character’s section ends with a cliffhanger, and the final section brings all the characters together. While it’s wonderful to have their lives come together and see them succeed, there’s a jump from where their cliffhangers ended to the time they come together. While Echo is already quite long, I felt that elaborating on each character’s story in the epilogue would have tied things up nicely.
However, the rest of Echo was absolutely fantastic, and it was wonderful to see the characters’ dreams come true. I would highly recommend this book, and while it may seem daunting to read close to 600 pages, the characters and storyline will keeps readers interested until the very end.
Sophia Lo is currently a senior at Hopewell Valley Central High School. In addition to volunteering at the Pennington Public Library, Sophia is also an editor of her school newspaper, secretary for her FBLA chapter, and a clarinetist for the Greater Princeton Youth Orchestra. She’s a lover of all things fantasy and is anxiously waiting for George R. R. Martin to release The Winds of Winter.