(Image from Barnes & Noble)
"It had just dawned on her to wonder what the book might want from her" (87).
Kai Grove has never met the great-aunt with whom she'll be living for the summer. Lavinia Quirk, a shockingly spry 86-year-old who listens to hip hop, resides in a house that's just as wonky as she is. So, really, 12-year-old Kai shouldn't be surprised when she finds a strange old book among the eclectic offerings on her aunt's shelf. Titled The Exquisite Corpse, it tells an old-fashioned tale about a boy who discovers magic. Not all that unique, perhaps, until Kai writes in the book and it writes back. At first she thinks she's imagining things or that Lavinia's playing a joke on her, but soon, she can't deny that something very real—and extremely strange—is happening to her. Kai came to Texas wanting an adventure; it seems she's found it.
Like Kai, Leila Awan has traveled to a faraway place seeking new experiences, preferably romantic, exciting ones like those she reads about in her favorite novels. Staying with her uncle's family in Lahore, Pakistan, should offer Leila plenty of unique opportunities; so far, though, she's got little to Skype home about. Then, she finds an intriguing book in her uncle's library, The Exquisite Corpse. Leila's hoping the tale inside will be "both utterly romantic and moderately gruesome" (21). What she finds is something rare, something magical, something that freaks her out completely. When Leila writes in the book, it writes back. Completely creeped out, she tries to destroy the book. It resists her attempts, relocating itself and demanding her attention. Little does Leila know, a girl her age on the other side of the world is having similar struggles with her copy of the same strange book.
As the story inside The Exquisite Corpse continues to unfold, both girls find themselves enraptured by the romance and mystery of a couple named Ralph Flabbergast and Edwina Pickle. Their real-life struggles in Texas and Pakistan are confusing enough without the addition of this crazy magic. And yet, it's as if destiny is drawing them to it, to each other. The question is: Why? Are they supposed to change Ralph and Edwina's fate? What about their own? What will happen to them all when the story finally comes to an end?
In the introduction to A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic by Lisa Papademetriou, the author talks about the invisible threads she believes connect people who are meant to find each other. Through the adventures of Kai and Leila, she explores this most fascinating of concepts. The fact that she uses a magic book to do it just makes the premise all the more compelling. With an imaginative storyline, fun characters, and an intertwining plot that jumps between the present and the past, A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic is an enchanting, multi-layered novel. Both a rollicking yarn and a poignant tale about finding one's true self, it's a bewitching read that I enjoyed immensely. If you like upbeat middle grade stories sprinkled in fairy dust, this one's for you.
(Readalikes: Reminded me of novels like Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brasheres and When the Butterflies Came by Kimberley Griffiths Little)
If this were a movie, it would be rated:
for brief, mild language (no F-bombs)
To the FTC, with love: I received a finished copy of A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic from the generous folks at HarperCollins. Thank you!
Are you fated to win a copy of A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic for your very own? Enter my giveaway using the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck!