Author: Tahereh Mafi
Published: expected August 30 2016
Source: Book Expo America
There are only three things that matter to twelve-year-old Alice Alexis Queensmeadow: Mother, who wouldn't miss her; magic and color, which seem to elude her; and Father, who always loved her. The day Father disappears from Ferenwood he takes nothing but a ruler with him. But it's been almost three years since then, and Alice is determined to find him. She loves her father even more than she loves adventure, and she's about to embark on one to find the other.
But bringing Father home is no small matter. In order to find him she'll have to travel through the mythical, dangerous land of Furthermore, where down can be up, paper is alive, and left can be both right and very, very wrong. Her only companion is a boy named Oliver whose own magical ability is based in lies and deceit--and with a liar by her side in a land where nothing is as it seems, it will take all of Alice's wits (and every limb she's got) to find Father and return home to Ferenwood in one piece. On her quest to find Father, Alice must first find herself--and hold fast to the magic of love in the face of loss.
Lyn: Okay, so I was a bit worried about this one, because I did read Shatter Me. Horrible Confession: I read it because I loved the cover.
Jessie: I was of the same mind. I read Shatter Me, found it overblown and loaded with language that just didn’t flow the way the author obviously intended. But, I really liked her imagination enough to try this MG. I am glad I did because her style is much more suited to fantasy.
Kara: Yeah, while I appreciated what she tried to do with Shatter Me, that book was just kind of a mess in its execution. I never read the rest of the books in the series, but I had a feeling that she was going to go in a different direction as far as style goes with her middle grade. And she did, and Furthermore was great. Such fun!
Lyn: Her writing worked out for this story. It fit with the narrative and the setting. A dystopian novel is not a place to describe rain with purple prose. But a fantasy novel was perfect for her style. Also, I felt that the author has grown overall. While it still felt like Mafi’s writing, it wasn’t so forced this time around.
Jessie: Yep, I read the first SM book and never went back. Furthermore was the opposite; it left me wanting more. It was such a fun and visual reading experience. And the prose that felt purple before FLOWS really well here. So many little sentences worded just the right way to describe Alice. “Mother liked dipping them in honey but Alice preferred the unmasked taste. Alice liked truth: on her lips and in her mouth.”
Kara: I agree, Jessie. The turns of phrase were really just eye catching and I would find myself stopping to read things over when I liked the way they sounded. I had a lot of fun with this book. It made me stretch my brain to try to visualize her world and how she wanted it to be seen. The writing was whimsical and it reminded me a lot of the Fairyland books by Cat Valente in a way.
Lyn: I’m honestly surprised that this wasn’t a series. There is so much more to explore in this book. Not only with the villages, but I wanted to see what happened next with Alice. She had a lot of room to grow. She was a highly immature character, but the author demonstrated how that was a downfall, and how it almost ruined her. It was a great build up for her character to give her a weakness and to not apologize for making Alice arrogant. It really worked, and I could see Alice becoming something great. Seriously, I wish I had this book when I was a girl. It was something wonderful to see a girl who wasn’t imperfect, but just enough to give her an edge. This was a girl with some issues, but it made the story stronger.
Jessie: I’m totally with Kara -- this is the closest readalike I’ve found to Valente’s MG books. One that doesn’t talk down its audience but engages them in multiple ways; there’s a lot of relevant discussion and ideas in this fantasy. I actually have hope that Mafi will explore more in this world. This is such a vibrant place and one painted in a short amount of time. The book is pretty long for an MG novel but the careful evolution of Alice and the slow unraveling of what happened to Father worked to keep interest high. It’s whimsical and creative and made for exploration. Tahereh Mafi is an imaginative writer and I’d be sad never to see Alice and Oliver again.
Kara: I think if the first book sells well, there may be an opportunity for more to be written in this world. I agree with what you both said, and I think I would like more books but I am also perfectly happy with it being a standalone because there are so few of those. One thing I can definitely say is that Mafi is an experimental writer, and I like that she takes chances. I will more than happily experiment with her and hopefully the next book will be a hit too.
The one thing that irritated me about this book though? How pat and perfect the book ended. It felt a bit rushed to me and ended abruptly before I was ready to finish the last page. And that is pretty much my only complaint.
Lyn: I was really shocked how clean it was at the end. When I was reading, I was freaking out how few pages I had left, and I kept thinking “Don’t deux ex machina this!” And it was. It was so cobbled together, like she was just tired of writing it. Yeah, the ending was weak.
Jessie: YEP. The whole way it was revealed felt like a limp resolution; a minimal effort to conclude things as easily as possible once the novel hit a certain point. When the pursuit of an answer propels the plot for 400+ pages, there needs to be a real sense of denouement. That didn’t happen here.
Kara: Yeah, I completely agree. The book was completely memorable until I got to that point. And there is nothing that sucks for me as a reader more than a weak ending. It almost ruins the whole reading experience for me. I hate to admit this, but I’m willing to be a bit more lenient with middle grade since I know the books aren’t written for me, but it still did affect my reading experience quite a bit, which is disappointing. This has left me confused as a result.
Lyn: It was anti-climatic. It was like a really awesome meal, and then you get a Twinkie for dessert. That is half eaten. I had some closure issues. I almost took off half a star for it, but then I got lazy and I really loved the foxes and I adored that there was no romance, but, yeah, I would have rated this as high as a 4.5 without that ending that was just lazy, and I’m not buying any other excuse for it.
Jessie: We are all on the same page. That ending was a definite low-point for what had been, up til then, a pretty perfect book. I am disappointed it was such a lamb of an ending and won’t deny it rounded my rating down. This is still one of the best MG novels I have read but it lost a little at the end.
Kara: Yup. I completely agree. So with all that in mind, I ended up rating this 4 stars. How about you guys?
Jessie: I had been feeling a 5-star rating but at the very end, I can’t give it more than a 4.5/5.
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