Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Apothecary by Maile Maloy

Janie’s parents are writers who are blacklisted as Communists during the McCarthy era, 1952. The family flees LA to live in London where Janie starts midyear at a new school. The city is still scarred from WWII where chocolate and a nice apartment are hard to come by. When Janie makes friends with the Apothecary’s son, Benjamin, she gets swept up in a mystery (and fantasy) as the two try to figure out who kidnapped his father and why.

The author does a great job with character development using unique voices and engaging personalities. Notice how Sarah Pennington is described and the dialogue of the parents who love to joke, the Russian boy’s father’s, the Chinese woman’s and poor boy’s speech; each is distinct from the others. The novel is historical but shifts after page 50 to mystery and fantasy. The plot has some nice twists such as the not-so-obvious villian. The plot also raises some questions such as why the gardener was killed or why the good guys were going for “containment” versus just stopping the villians. I’m being vague here because I don’t want to give away the ending. Plus, Sarah helping the kids because she liked Pip just didn’t seem plausible to me. And the kids running around naked (but invisible) in London in February was unbelievable as well, but I don’t think most readers will care about these minor questions. The pacing is good and action fun.

The violence in the story involves a murder, kids being attacked, and a man holding a pistol to a girl’s head. There is kissing and a little romance between Sarah and Pip and Janie and Benjamin. They are all too busy saving the world for much to happen between them. Come at the story as a fantasy not historical novel and the unbelieveable parts shouldn’t get in the way of this enjoyable story.

Reading Level 5.1

:-):-):-) 3.5 out of 5 Smileys

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