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That same night, an alchemist's apprentice, Will, bungles an important delivery. He accidentally switches a box containing the most powerful magic in the world with one containing something decidedly less remarkable.
Will's mistake has tremendous consequences for Liesl and Po, and it draws the three of them together on an extraordinary journey.
From New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver comes a luminous and magnificent novel that glows with rare magic, ghostly wonders, and a true friendship that lights even the darkest of places.
313 pages, Hardcover
First published October 4, 2011
"On the third night after the day her father died, Liesl saw the ghost."This is the story of an 11-year-old Liesl, an orphan, who has been locked up in the attic by her evil stepmother (by the way, why are all fairy-tale stepmothers uniformly evil and ugly?). She meets Po, a ghost, an "it" from the Other Side, who has no memory of life on the Living Side. For the touch of the irresistible cuteness, we have Bundle, Po's companion, who may have been a dog or a cat back on the Living Side. And there is also Will, a young alchemist's apprentice, whose unwitting mix-up set the events of the story in motion.
"People need other people to feel things for them," she said. "it gets lonely to feel things all by yourself."
"She liked the word 'ineffable' because it meant a feeling so big or vast that it could not be expressed in words. And yet, because it could not be expressed in words, people had invented a word to express it, and that made Liesl feel hopeful, somehow."This is a story full of melancholy and sadness. No wonder - from the afterword we learn that Lauren Oliver wrote this after a death of her friend, and the grief is palpable through the pages of this story, further illustrated by the beautiful and somehow sad pencil drawings. This is a story of loss and grief, sometimes explicitly stated (Liesl) or just heartbrokenly hinted at (Po and its traces of memories of friendship and being left out). It is the story of childhood that was not full of love and kindness (Will).
"Useless was one of the alchemist's favorite words, and he used it interchangeably to describe Will's plans, thoughts, work, appearance, and general selfhood."
"Two visits to the living side, and the ghost had already become a little more human. Po had remembered how to lie."All that said, I still enjoyed this book very much. The drawings were beautiful. The story was compelling. It is quite quotable. It leaves the reader with a warm and fuzzy feeling inside, and even my cynical heart knows that sometimes all of us need a bit of that feeling, a bit of something that is uplifting and beautiful, and realism or bittersweetness be damned. And at the end, I gladly give this story 3.5 stars, put it on the imaginary bookshelf meant for my future (hypothetical) daughter, and recommend it easily.
"And this, really, is the story-within-the-story, because if you do not believe that hearts can bloom suddenly bigger, and that love can open like a flower out of even the hardest places, then I am afraid that for you the world will be long and brown and barren, and you will have trouble finding the light.
But if you do believe, then you already know all about magic."
Coincidences; mix-ups; harmless mistakes and switches. And so a story is born.
“Actually, it is the opposite of an escape; it is a way back in, a way to enter and make sense of a world that occasionally seems harsh and terrible and mystifying.”
Coincidences; mix-ups; harmless mistakes and switches.
And so a story is born.
It was snowing, and late, and already getting dark, and as Will passed by Kevin Donnell's house, he had seen a door flung open. He had seen light and warmth and the big, comforting silhouette of a woman inside of it. He had smelled meat and soap and heard a soft trilling voice saying, Come inside, you must be freezing....And the pain had been so sharp and deep inside of him for a second that he had looked around, thinking he must have walked straight into the point of a knife.
Looking at the girl in the attic window was like looking into Kevin Donnell's house, but without the pain.
Po had never seen a ghost cry before. There were no actual tears: just quivering little dark spots, like shadows that pushed apart the atoms of Liesl's father's face, temporarily revealing the starry sky beyond. Ghosts, even the newest ones, just weren't held together very tightly.