Wednesday, January 27, 2016

My Diary from the Edge of the World - Jodi Lynn Anderson

Title: My Diary From the Edge of the World
Author: Jodi Lynn Anderson
Publisher: Aladdin (Simon & Schuster), 2015 (Hardcover)
Length: 419 pages
Genre: Children's Fantasy
Started: January 18, 2016
Finished: January 27, 2016

From the inside cover:

Spirited, restless Gracie Lockwood is a typical girl in a world that isn't exactly typical: one where sasquatches helped win the American Civil War, where dragons glide over Route 1 on their way south for the winter (sometimes burring down an Applebee's along the way), where giants hide in caves near LA and mermaids hunt along the beaches, and where Dark Clouds come for people when they die.

To Gracie, it's all pretty ho-hum...until a Dark Cloud comes for her little brother, Sam. Her parents pack the family into a used Winnebago and set out on an epic search for a safe place that most people say doesn't exist: the Extraordinary World. It's rumoured to lie at the ends of the earth. To reach it, the Lockwoods will have to learn to believe in each other...and to trust that the world holds more possibilities than they've ever imagined.

Perceptive, playful, and bittersweet, My Diary From the Edge of the World is a story about protecting those you love at all costs. Captured in diary form by an irresistible heroine, it's a coming-of-age story set against a backdrop of wonders; a gentle family portrait that sparkles with science, myth, magic, and the strange beauty of everyday marvels we sometimes forget to notice.

This was probably the most charming middle grade book I've read in a while, and the story is fairly unique, at least I don't recall anything similar that I've come across recently.

Gracie lives in an alternate reality to ours: everything is more or less similar except that their world is inhabited by all the magical creatures we've only read about. The world-building is really well-done, Gracie leads us through lesson-type entries in her diary informing us about how the world is actually flat, and how she broke her arm when she accidentally brushed against a dragon flying past her. Dark Clouds act as grim reapers, slowly approaching the houses of people that are about to die. When a Dark Cloud appears in Gracie's neighbourhood, she assumes it's for one of the elderly neighbours, until it settles over her house and she realizes it's come for her sickly little brother. Her academic father packs the family up to go on the road to escape the cloud to a place only he believes actually exists: the Extraordinary World, aka our world. On the way from the eastern coast to the west, Gracie and family encounter many amazing things including the addition of an orphan to their caravan, kidnapping a sasquatch, hiring a guardian angel, and being attacked by a Kracken.

I love the themes of sticking together as a family, dealing with loss, and how the journey itself is more important than the destination. The relationships between the characters I thought were realistic and well-portrayed. The English teacher in me loved the Hamlet quote in the beginning, it makes sense once you read the entire book. The only thing that irked me was that the plot twist of an ending wasn't really explained and I wanted more information.

A really engaging novel that will make you laugh (and also cry at the end), definitely worth the read.

Thoughts on the cover:
 I like the view of Gracie from the side so we can't see her face looking at the Winnebago driving off. The fact that she's holding her diary is a nice touch, as well as the little dragon by the title font.

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