November/December 2009 681
injury)—“it’s like a concussion, only worse,” explains the doctor—and
remembers only disconnected images from the “incident” in the alley.
McCormick takes her audience inside Matt’s mind as he heals and tries
to process troubling, confusing details. He learns that one of the Iraqis
killed was a child he had befriended, an orphan who lived on the streets.
With the prodding of an army therapist, a woman assigned to evaluate
whether he’s ready to return to active duty, Matt starts to have ﬂash-
backs of young Ali ﬂying backward “through the turquoise sky, higher
and higher, until all Matt could see were the soles of his shoes.” Does
this mean Matt pulled the trigger, that he’s a child killer? With this ques-
tion, as with all of the questions in this hard-hitting novel, the answer is
complex and heartbreaking. c.m.h.
Robin McKinley and Peter Dickinson Fire: Tales of Elemental
297 pp. Putnam 10/09 isbn 978-0-399-25289-1 $19.99
As in Water (rev. 7/02), their previous collection of “tales of elemental
spirits,” husband-and-wife team Dickinson and McKinley each con-
tribute fantasy short stories united by an element, this time fire. In
Dickinson’s “Phoenix,” a girl visiting a nature preserve discovers the
creature it shelters—and the strange reverse-aging effects it has on its
guardian. McKinley mines a favorite subject, comp