Saturday, November 12, 2011

Liesl and Po

Liesl and Po by Lauren Oliver
Harper, 2011
307 pages
Middle-Grade; Fantasy
5/5 stars

Source: Received an ARC from Amazon's Vine program in exchange for an honest review.

Before I Fall was one of my favorite books last year and while Delirium didn't quite work for me, I remain enchanted with Oliver's writing and I wanted to give her third book a shot, especially as it is the middle-grade category.

Liesl is the main character, a young girl living imprisoned in an attic by her evil stepmother who murdered her father. Soon she meets Po and Bundle, ghosts from the Other Side. Their paths are entangled when Will, an alchemist's apprentice, accidentally switches wooden boxes containing on the one hand, the most powerful magic ever and on the other hand the ashes of Liesl's dead father. When Liesl escapes to fulfill her father's final wish of having his ashes scattered by their old house, the plot kicks into high gear with various adult characters chasing after her.

My favorite part of the book was how the different characters and their wishes and schemes were first introduced and then became entwined. It always makes me think of Dickens, except in this case the prose is more manageable and less long-winded! There's the high-handed Lady Premiere and the scheming Stepmother, both mean social-climbers who are exposed and thwarted through their greed in following Liesl. But there's also the kindhearted guard Mo, who loves hot chocolate and cats (my kind of guy!)

I was also really excited about this being a middle-grade novel because it probably meant less romance, which was true! Although there is love in this book, it is familial and totally heart-warming. Friendships are fostered, good is saved, and evil is punished in appropriate ways.

As I look over what I have written, I realize that I have mostly neglected talking about the ghosts Po and Bundle. As they have been on the Other Side for a long time now, their earthly form has dissolved such that gender and species is difficult to discern; thus Po is referred to as it and Bundle might be a dog or a cat-we don't know and it doesn't matter. Because they are invisible to most (but not to Liesl), they are incredibly useful as guards and spies in assisting Liesl on her mission. But honestly I was more into seeing the wicked adults be punished so they weren't my favorite part.

Overall: A magical experience with sweet main characters, a fast-moving plot, and an easy writing style.

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