A wise and optimistic child with a tragic past, 11 year-old Nola Ramone is informed that the Golden Gate Home for Unfortunate Children is out of room and she must go to camp while a new wing is built. It’s 1945 at the end of World War II, and she’s hopeful that when she gets back, military heroes will marry their sweethearts and she’ll be adopted into a permanent family. The day before she departs for camp, Nola receives a strange burnished metal box from her friend Francois. She does not yet know the significance of the gift or power it wields, but it’s something to call her own, and that in itself makes it special.
Meanwhile in 1958, 8-year old aspiring detective Beekley Darling is in Costa Rica with her archeologist father when massive ruins are uncovered requiring JT Darling’s full attention over the rest of the summer. The excavation is too dangerous for a precocious third-grader, though, and Beekley’s father sends her away to camp for the duration of the dig. Before leaving, however, Beeks is snooping through her father’s room and finds an old leather notebook containing odd sketches and an unknown written language, and takes it with her as reading material for the ferry ride to Terasosue Island.
Puzzle-savant and greasy rocker Elvis Metallo arrives home after the last day of school in 1982 to find his family throwing a party in his honor. Turns out he made straight-A’s for the semester, and as promised, his parents are sending him to music camp. The quick-minded, nimble-fingered 13 year-old packs that evening, remembering to include his most important possessions: a Sony Walkman, a Rubik’s Cube and Nutter Butter cookies. Little does he know that these simple pleasures will later save lives.
On Terasosue Island, a land devoid of linear time, every thing has a purpose and every purpose has a thing. Only exceptional children are welcome, three of whom are drawn (or were they lured?) into the domain of Gui Nonos, Mirror Man oracles, Mushroom Mole Generals, and Killedendrons (you know, those pesky, man-sized carnivorous flowers). Are you ready? Good. Grab your ferry ticket and join Nola, Beekley and Elvis on an enchanted mystery in a place torn apart by the last two members of the families entrusted with its safekeeping, neither of whom is all good or all bad, and both clinging to sanity by a fraying thread of desperation. Curses and traps abound, and if you know who you are, you have nothing to fear. But if not, keep your enemies close, and don't forget to pack your cold squid jelly and peanut butter sandwiches. You may be here awhile. In fact, you may never leave.