Quintessence by Jess Redman

Hello, Jess Redman! I am honored you returned to Watch. Connect. Read. to share Matt Rockefeller’s PHENOMENAL cover illustration and Elizabeth Clark’s design for Quintessence. Whoa!

Jess Redman: Hello, Mr. Schu! Thank you so very much for having me back! This cover, by the same team as the Miraculous cover, is everything I could have hoped for and more. Alma, her quintescope, the falling Starling—every detail is perfect.

Please tell us about the…
Find the Elements.
Grow the Light.
Save the Starling.

…tag line across the top of Quintessence’s cover. 

Jess Redman: Quintessence is a quest story, and these are the words that spark Alma’s journey. They are first spoken by the mysterious owner of the Fifth Point, which is both a junk shop and an observatory located in the very center of the town of Four Points. 

Alma and her new friends from Astronomy Club later discover these same words in a very old, very strange book, along with other magical secrets about the connection between fallen stars and ordinary human beings. 

These words are what send Alma, Hugo, Shirin, and Dustin to the source of a shining stream, to the top of the tallest mountain, to the depths of the Deep Down caves, and all over their magic-infused town. 

Please tell us about twelve-year-old Alma Lucas.

Jess Redman: Alma’s family just moved to Four Points, and Alma, introverted and imaginative, is struggling to adjust to her new home. She is lonely and homesick, and, worst of all, she’s been having panic attacks. 

Alma feels like she’s not herself anymore, like there’s a light inside of her that is growing dimmer and dimmer. 

But when the owner of the Fifth Point gives her a quintescope, it feels like that light inside of her sparks. And that night, when she watches a star that looks like a golden child fall from the sky, Alma feels bright enough to set out on a journey to save that lost, far-from-home Starling. 

And in saving the Starling, Alma will find out that she is still herself and that she is not alone.

What planted the seed for Quintessence?

Jess Redman: Like Alma, I moved across the country when I was twelve. And, like Alma, I began experiencing panic attacks after that move. Alma and I are not the same person, but she was a very easy character to understand and to write about. And as a therapist, I’ve worked with many people, young and old, who struggle with anxiety disorders, which are the most common mental health illnesses in the US. 

Beyond Alma herself, the ideas for Quintessence came from my own fascination with astronomy. There is a feeling when I stargaze or watch a meteor shower of being very small and separate, and yet being part of something very big and wonderful. Quintessence is, I hope, about just that: finding out who you are and how you fit into the world, how you fit into the universe. 

Please finish the following sentence starters:

The Astronomy Club
is where Alma begins to find friendship and connection. She attends her first meeting the day after she watches the Starling fall from the sky. She is searching for answers and for help. 

At the club meeting, she encounters three very different kids—Hugo, who is super smart, quirky, and lonely; Shirin, who is popular and friendly, but unsure of herself; and Dustin, who became a bully this year although even his former best friend doesn’t know why.

Each of these kids has something to offer, and each of them has something the others need. All four of them must come together if they’re going to save the Starling. 

I hope Quintessence draws in readers with the mystery of who the owner of the Fifth Point is, where (and what) the Elements are, and how the Starling can be sent home. This is a story of magical telescopes, ancient alchemy texts, supernova explosions, quests under the stars, and characters who are more than they appear to be. I hope readers who love magic and science and adventure will get lost in this book. 

And I hope Quintessence speaks to readers who feel lonely, who feel out of place, who are searching for themselves. I hope readers who feel like their light has been dimmed will be sparked by this story. I hope they will feel found.

Did you know that there is such a thing as a runaway star? There is! 

A runaway star is a star that has been catapulted out of its stellar system and sent zooming across the universe at rates of speed as fast as 900,000 miles per hour. What causes this catapulting? In some cases, runaway stars are the result of a nearby supernova. A supernova explosion is more than 500 billion times brighter than our sun—definitely powerful enough to hurl a star through space!

And in Quintessence, one of those runaway stars ends up right here on Earth (with a little magical help).

Look for Quintessence on July 28, 2020. 


Three months ago, twelve-year-old Alma moved to the town of Four Points. Her panic attacks started a week later, and they haven’t stopped—even though she told her parents that they did. Every day she feels less and less like herself.

Then Alma meets the ShopKeeper in the town's junk shop, The Fifth Point. The ShopKeeper gives her a telescope and this message:

Find the Elements.
Grow the Light.
Save the Starling.

That night, Alma watches as a star—a star that looks like a child—falls from the sky and into her backyard. Alma knows what it’s like to be lost and afraid, to long for home, and with the help of some unlikely new friends from the Astronomy Club, she sets out on a quest that will take a little bit of astronomy, a little bit of alchemy, and her whole self.

QUINTESSENCE is an extraordinary story of friendship, self-discovery, interconnectedness, and the inexplicable elements that make you you.

Jess Redman is the author of The Miraculous, which Kirkus called “layered, engaging, and emotionally true” in a starred review and Quintessence, which comes out July 28, 2020. She is a therapist and currently lives in Florida with her husband, two young children, and an old cat named SoulPie. Find her at jessredman.com.


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