Mistress of the Storm, a Verity Gallant Tale, by M. L. Welsh. David Fickling Books, 2011.
This fantasy unfolds over one year in Wellow, a fictional seaside village in England. Verity Gallant, unpopular, not pretty, is resigned to never measuring up to the expectations of her family and her classmates. And then, one day as she is reading in the library, a mysterious stranger gives her a red book and a wooden sphere before hastening furtively out the door. The title of the book is, "On the Origin of Stories, a Disquisition" by Messrs R. Hodge, Heyworth & Helerly.
Immediately, things begin to change. Verity's mother becomes pregnant, and her father becomes distant and unresponsive to his family. The Storm, a big sailing ship, has anchored in the bay. A heretofore-unknown - and very unpleasant - grandmother arrives unannounced for an indefinite stay with Verity's family. A mysterious dark-skinned boy begins following her. An adult friend disappears.
With information gleaned from stories in the red book and the help of her friends, Henry and Martha, the librarian, Miss Cameron, and the dark-skinned boy, Jeb, Verity pieces together the fantastic stories of the families in Wellow and discovers the true identity of her "grandmother".
This is so unlike any other fantasy I have read, I was glued to the pages until the very end of the book. Characters were not who they seemed to be; friends turned out to be foes and vice-versa. All my guesses were wrong; but the author provided a very satisfying conclusion. I especially liked the role of the library as a source of research materials for Verity and her friends. I hope there will be more Verity Gallant tales forthcoming!