Thursday, October 27, 2011

Liesl & Po - Lauren Oliver

Title: Liesl & Po
Author: Lauren Oliver
Publisher: Harper Collins, 2011 (Hardcover)
Length: 307 pages
Genre: Children's Fantasy
Started: October 22, 2011
Finished: October, 26, 2011

From the inside cover:
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.

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.

I'm not the biggest fan of Lauren Oliver's YA books, she's got a beautiful writing style, but there always seems to be something missing from the plots and storylines that make the overall package not as impressive as it could be, so I thought I would try out her new children's novel and see if there was any difference (some authors do write differently from one genre to another). Sadly, this trend continues with Liesl and's a beautiful little book with wonderful themes and gorgeous writing, but there's just something about it that keeps it from actually being as impressive as I want it to be.

Liesl and Po takes place in a depression era or Dickensian kind of world with factories and smog and poverty. Liesl's family was fairly well off, her mother died when she was little and her father recently remarried and has just died. Liesl's stepmother keeps her locked in the attic in order to claim Liesl's inheritance from her father since she can't actually do away with her completely. One night, Liesl is visited by Po, a ghost from the Other Side, and Bundle, some sort of animal ghost that always seemed like a dog in my head. Liesl asks Po if it can find her father and deliver a message to him, which Po does, relying back to Liesl that her father can rest if his ashes are laid to rest with her mother back in their old home out in the country. At the same time, Will, the alchemist's assistant, is delivering a box filled with the alchemist's greatest magic but gets it mixed up with the box containing Liesl's father's ashes. So when Po helps Liesl escape with her father's remains they're actually running away with the magic box, which leads the alchemist and the Lady Premiere to go running after them to retrieve the right box.

I love the themes of rebirth that the author chose to incorporate in this novel, and she writes them in quite well. The thing that irks me is that by the time I got to the end of the story and realized where everything was going, there ends up being several characters and plot deviations that really could've been cut out completely because they don't add anything to the story at all. The Lady Premiere was essentially a nothing character that could've been cut out, the alchemist could've functioned fine on his own. The lady on the train was pointless too. On the other hand there were some things I wish were fleshed out, like Mo's sister and Po's background before it became a ghost (it's brought up very abruptly right at the end). Plus I wish the main characters like Liesl and Po and Will were fleshed out more themselves character-wise, they seem very flat at certain points. I know it's a children's book, but this felt like it either had to be shorter like a fairy tale that just states facts and people believe them, just make it longer to flesh out the stuff that's already there.

Beautiful writing with wonderful themes, but again there's something missing along the way that just prevents it from having that extra "wow" factor.

Thoughts on the cover:
This book has gorgeous illustrations both throughout the book and on the cover. The best part is that the full version of the image of Liesl, Po and Bundle on the dust jacket is extended on the actual cover underneath, it's soooo pretty.

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