Quite simply the most gorgeously written middle grade book I have enjoyed in….forever. I felt drenched in description and fell deeply in love with Alice and Oliver.
Inspired by her childhood love of books like A Secret Garden and The Chronicles of Narnia, bestselling author Tahereh Mafi crafts a spellbinding new world where color is currency, adventure is inevitable, and friendship is found in the most unexpected places.
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. 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. from Goodreads.
When a writer tells you to read a book because it is, “gorgeously written,” you listen. Especially if that talented scribe is also thirteen. This is generous praise indeed! I knew that I would immediately have to pick up my copy of Furthermore and see what she was talking about for myself.
I have the physical book but I couldn’t resist also listening to the audiobook from my library since the narrator is Bronson Pinchot. He is one of my favorite actors and his narration of this book was nearly as decadent as the writing.
And, have no doubt, the writing is decadent. If there is one writing rule that I struggle with the most, it is “show, don’t tell.” I find this maxim difficult but Tahereh Mafi could teach a master class in the technique. The descriptions of the characters and the world were so detailed and gorgeous that I felt as thought I could reach out and touch them. The vivid colors and how they contrasted so distinctly Alice’s lack of it was so real to me. And, magically, there wasn’t a point where I felt the descriptions were cumbersome. Striking this balance is a unique talent and it made for vivid listening.
In fact, this book was truly perfect as an audiobook. I will admit that I listen to my audiobooks sped up and Pinchot’s strong and clear voice lost none of its richness even at the higher speed. I wonder if I would have enjoyed the descriptions half as much if I had read them since his narration brought depth to each phrase. Furthermore, Mafi allows the omniscient narrator to speak to the reader, a technique that worked even better audibly since it sounded, each time, like Pinchot was sharing a secret with me.
I do have two small critiques of the book. After a long adventure I quite enjoy a good conclusion. While the book had an ending I loved, I wanted to bask in the joy for longer. It is always difficult after a long and dangerous journey to just have everything tied up in a short number of pages. Similarly, it might have been me, but I somehow missed the foreshadowing of Alice’s gift. When it was disclosed to the reader, it felt like an edit rather than a seamless a-ha moment, especially since the narrator (in an aside) literally discloses it to you.
But neither of these issues detracted from the story or my whole-hearted enjoyment of Furthermore. I will freely admit that I didn’t care for either Alice or Oliver at the beginning of the story and I am impressed by how much I grew to love them both by the end of the book. I know that there is another book set in the world but I am less interested in spending time in Furthermore than I am sitting down and checking in on these two characters.
Whether this book reminds you of Alice in Wonderland, The Secret Garden, or visiting Narnia, the story is as magical as the writing.
Tell me, please! Have you read this author’s other work? Any recommendations?