Annotation: After she accidentally invokes Ophiuchus, the thirteenth Zodiac sign, thirteen-year-old Jalen must battle the other twelve signs who are determined to make sure that Ophiuchus doesn’t remain a permanent part of the Zodiac.
Personal thoughts: I have always been interested in the Zodiac and found many of the character traits it assigns to be fairly accurate, so when I heard about The 13th Sign I was immediately intrigued. The book is a very quick read and I would easily be able to recommend it to an upper elementary/early middle school-er who wants something fun and fast-paced. I do somewhat wish the author would have developed the characters a little bit more, but the lack of depth works if it’s simply being read for entertainment purposes. I’m looking forward to seeing what Kristin O’Donnell Tubb comes up with next!
Plot summary: Every year on her birthday, Jalen and her grandmother, Nina, visit Madame Beausoleil’s shop and have a horoscope reading. This year, her thirteenth-birthday, Nina is in the hospital battling breast cancer, so Jalen and her best friend, Ellie, have decided to continue the tradition and get Jalen’s horoscope read. While exploring the books in Madame Beausoleil’s quirky shop, Jalen discovers a mysterious book hidden at the back of a shelf called The Keypers of the Zodiack. She and Ellie purchase the book and take it home where they discover that it contains not twelve but thirteen Zodiac signs. The thirteenth, Ophiuchus the serpent, would be Jalen’s actual Zodiac sign were it included in the calendar. Jalen doesn’t realize she is about to find out exactly what it means to be an Ophiuchus, however, when she and Ellie accidentally unlock the thirteenth sign and the entire Zodiac calendar shifts. Everyone now has a new sign, causing personality changes around the world. Surgeons are now timid, unable to perform their jobs, once brave policemen hide in the shadows and airline pilots are afraid to fly. Jalen, Ellie and Ellie’s older brother, Brennan, now find themselves in the middle of a battle between the other twelve Zodiac signs who have descended from the stars to make sure that Ophiuchus doesn’t come into power and make the calendar shift permanent. Can Jalen return Ophiuchus to its rightful place and prevent the world from being irrevocably altered?
Review: Historical fiction author Kristin O’Donnell Tubb ventures into the realm of fantasy with her latest novel, The 13th Sign. Set in the already mystical town of New Orleans, the author weaves an interesting and unique story of Zodiac signs gone rogue. The bulk of the novel is dedicated to the consequences Jalen, Ellie and Brennan must deal with after Jalen accidentally invokes Ophiuchus (a constellation that does actually exist), causing the personalities of everyone on Earth to shift. Readers who aren’t interested in the Zodiac or don’t put much stock into its ability to predict or guide a person’s life will likely not find much in the novel to enjoy. There is a limited amount of backstory to Jalen and her relationship with her mother, grandmother and the father that disappeared years earlier. There is also a very tiny bit of romance between Jalen and Brennan, as well as a small amount of development in Jalen’s friendship with Ellie. Apart from these tiny subplots, however, the plot surrounds Jalen battling the various Zodiac signs. Readers who find this intriguing will enjoy the different ways the author introduces familiar names like Gemini, Leo and Capricorn, as well as the methods Jalen must use to defeat them. Since the novel never really gets too deep and is, instead, more of an action/adventure story, it is a good choice for older elementary/early middle school readers who want something fun and entertaining. The book might also be a good extra credit project in a science class to spark interest in astronomy and the history of constellations.
Reading level: Grade 5+
Similar titles: N/A
Themes: Zodiac, horoscopes, adventure, danger, friendship, cancer, New Orleans.
Awards/Reviews: Positive review from Kirkus and Booklist.
Series Information: N/A
- Do you think the Zodiac is accurate? Why or why not?
- Why do you think Jalen was unhappy with being a Sagittarius?
- Research the constellation Ophiuchus. Is anything that the author mentions in the book about the constellation true?
- Look at the two different Zodiac calendars in the back of the book. Would your sign have changed when Jalen involved the thirteenth sign? What would it have changed to? Do you think it would have impacted your personality?
- Which of the Zodiac signs was your favorite in the book? Why?
- Do you think Jalen did the right thing with Ophiuchus’ stone? Why or why not?