Though there are many middle grade series and authors that I hold dear, I don't overly explore the middle grade genre outside of the authors I have already subscribed to. I had a lot of mixed feelings over Lauren Oliver's young adult books (Delirium, Before I Fall) but what I could never deny was how wonderfully breathtaking her writing style is. Jim Dale was the one who piqued my interest in Liesl & Po with the simple fact that he narrates the audiobook. He also did Harry Potter. When I heard an excerpt from the audiobook, I had to pick it up. When I saw it at a bargain book store, I grabbed it. And I am so glad I did.Liesl lives in a tiny attic bedroom, locked away by her cruel stepmother. Her only friends are the shadows and the mice,until one night a ghost appears from the darkness. It is Po, who comes from the Other Side. Both Liesl and Po are lonely, but together they are less alone.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.
What I expected was the stereotypical middle grade novel: something with some overly simplistic writing and characters that were flatly grandiose puttering along to a plot that could be predicted from another planet. What I got was the tale of three adorably fleshed out characters racing through the pages, chased by eyebrow-raisingly creepy villains, in a world that is instantly recognizable for its genius but enchantingly exotic shadows.
What I admired about Lauren Oliver's take to this straightforward plot was how she pulled the simple bones of the plot like soft taffy until they were an entirely different shape. The original idea was the still there -- a tale of an accidental switch by an abused apprentice, and a girl closeted away by an evil stepmother -- but it came alive. Lauren Oliver made it feel not so much created as discovered.
The illustrations added another layer of atmosphere to the already jam-packed story. They piqued my interest when I browsed ahead, and then painted a deeper picture when I came upon that part of the story. The illustrations helped me imagine how the author must've imagined the characters, and that brought a certain flavor to the reading of the story, seeing how the author meant it to look.
Liesl & Po was a fantastic story with a bittersweet ending. It is certainly a book that I will proudly carry on my shelves, and also one I may take the time to reread in the future. I highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone.
- pages - hardcover, 307
- published - January 2011
- publisher - HarperCollins
- genre - fantasy
- rating - 5/5
- series - standalone