We meet Liesl the night after the day her young father has died. That same day she is visited by a ghost, Po, an eight year old boy who lives on the other side, the territory between life and death that runs parallel to the living world. Po has come to tell her that her father is stuck on the other side, and that she is the only one who can help him cross over. A couple of wooden boxes. Some ashes. Some magic dust. A ghost, its pet, and a boy who forgot to wear a hat in the cold. From these seemingly odd, random characters Oliver weaves the enchanting story of how, with the aid of Liesl, these elements come together over the course of one week to restore love and luster to a world gone grey and heartless.
My love for Lauren Oliver's writing in her novel Delirium gave me some pretty high expectations for this MG debut. Thankfully, Lauren Oliver's writing is truly as spectacular as I first thought. Her ability to tell breath-takingly beautiful story shines like no other in this book. Oliver has created a story that shines as a mix of fairy and folk tale with a mix of magic, fantasy, and love (although not the romantic kind that you may be thinking).
Liesl is a child whose situation will at once remind you a bit of Cinderella--the unwanted step-daughter hidden away from the world by her "evil" stepmother. However, that's where I'll stop with the fairy tale comparison. Liesl is an independent child, hidden away in the attic of her stepmothers house, slowly forgetting the outside world and her past as each day passes. When Po shows up in her attic one day, no one could guess how drastically the lives of each would change.
Alongside the story of Liesl, the reader follows the story of Will, the alchemist's apprentice who admires Liesl from the street corner each evening. Will's life, much like Liesl's, is not of beauty or love, but of sadness, loneliness, and dreaming. Each child dreams of a world bigger than themselves without knowing how to achieve it. When fate throws them together into a whirlwind adventure, only time can tell what the outcomes will be.
I don't want to spoil anything about this story for you, so I'm going to stop here. Just know that this magic tale will pull you in and make you remember why you loved fairy tales so much as a child. The love and care that Lauren Oliver put into this story is apparent in her beautiful writing and the enchanting story that she has woven. This is not a book that you will regret picking up, and it's definitely not just a book for younger readers. The themes in this book will resonate with readers young and old alike.