By Ingrid Law
Walden Media, 2010
Scumble is the sequel to Savvy, a children's/young adult novel that won the Newbery Honor Award in 2009; Scumble has not yet won any major awards but has become equally popular among young readers. It takes place about about nine years after Savvy, and while some characters from Savvy make an appearance (most notably Rocket), it focuses on a different branch of the O'Connell family.
Ledger Kale is about to turn 13 -- a very special birthday in his family, as this is when the children of the O'Connell clan gain a special power. The power, known as a 'savvy', differs for each individual and is entirely unpredictable, but Ledger knows exactly what he wants; preternatural speed. He figures that since he will be getting his savvy genes from his mother, it makes sense that it will pair with the runner genes that he inherited from his father.
...Which doesn't happen. Ledger's savvy turns out to be the ability to disintegrate mechanical devices of all sorts. Which is not really a great power by any measure, but when you add in the difficulties that all teenagers have in controlling their new savvies, it is downright disastrous. Ledger is left at his uncle's ranch to come to grips with his new powers in a comparatively isolated area, which isn't really too bad. Although he is bunked with his cousin Rocket, who after nearly a decade is still unable to control his power enough to leave the ranch. And his other cousin Samson doesn't even seem to be trying to scumble his talent. Oh, and his obnoxious younger twin cousins, who mastered their savvy at age five (something about twins...) are constantly tormenting him.
But all of that pales in comparison to the real threat -- a girl from the nearby town of Sundance who spotted Ledger accidentally disintegrating a motorcycle (and part of the sheriff's patrol car), and who is Very Interested in learning more about the O'Connell family, and Ledger in particular. And then writing about them in her self-published 'newspaper'.
As this is the sequel to Savvy, I would recommend that you read Savvy first -- but this is not necessary, and you can enjoy both books whichever order you read them in. For the most part, if you like one you will like the other, as they are both written in very much the same style, about the same sort of people, and are both (slightly odd) coming of age stories. They are both lighthearted but have a good dose of young angst, with strong themes of being accepted by your family and friends when going through personal changes. They have more advanced vocabulary and grammar than most books for children/young adults, which is cleverly used to make the story seem more interesting and exciting than it would otherwise be. After reading Scumble I had the feeling that I had read a more substantial book than after reading Savvy, but at the same time I cannot pin down why.
Scumble was written for strong readers of about 10-14 years of age (ATOS book level of 5.6), although younger kids may enjoy it, particularly if they enjoy fun vocabulary. A weaker reader may find themselves lost when faced with long sentences full of idioms and new vocabulary, and there are strong strains of foreshadowing and implied information that younger kids may not be used to spotting. Older kids will probably enjoy it as well, but teenagers may find it childish at points, particularly if they've been reading books like The Hunger Games and Twilight. This is their loss. Old people (20 and up, say), will generally enjoy this book as long as they go into it expecting a good children's book, rather than the more serious tone often found in the young adult session.