When this book became available on NetGalley, I jumped at the chance to get an early read. I have read several books by Alice Hoffman, and am definitely a fan of her writing. The cover piqued my interest. I expected, based on that cover, that we would be in for a mysterious, magical treat.
I read this book aloud to my 11-year-old daughter, who is the perfect audience for a middle grade book. I say this because she is open to any topic; she loves a good story, and she is willing to invest time to get to know a character. We analyze things as we read, we ask questions, and we often try to guess what will happen next. We love it when we’re right, and sometimes, we even love it when we are wrong.
The premise of this book requires a leap of faith, and many parts of it require you to suspend your disbelief. While it is not entirely rooted in magic and spells and the like, it was more often the everyday world that required this. I tried not to let on to my daughter a sneaking suspicion I had, but I will say now that I did feel Alice Hoffman’s normally beautiful language, replete with lovely metaphors, seemed a little dumbed down for the middle grade reader. And to be honest, my middle grade reader did notice. There were quite a few double takes and some rolling of the eyes at the worst of these transgressions, but we persevered, because we do still love a good story.
So yes, it is a good story, if somewhat haltingly told. It was gentle and sweet, and wrapped up a little too neatly in the end, but we kind of like that when we read out loud. There were no real surprises here, except that the reader has been vastly underestimated. I would love to read another middle grade book that Hoffman writes, I just hope she is a little more in touch with her reader the next time around. We would be happy to help.