January 26, 2012 by Heidi
Author: Lauren Oliver [Website|Twitter|Facebook]
Illustrator: Kei Acedera
Standing: Stand alone novel.
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Paranormal
Published: October 4th, 2011 by HarperCollins
Format: Audiobook; 5 hrs, 55 mins. Read by Jim Dale (!)
Source: Borrowed from my local library.Three days after Liesl’s father dies, her sadness is noted. Not by anyone of note, not by her stepmother or the family servants, or any adult for that matter, but by two others. Po, a ghost from the other side, notices the girl has stopped drawing and it’s wondering why when it pops over to the living side together with his friend Bundle and meets the girl. Will, the alchemist’s apprentice who likes to stare up at the pretty girl in the window hasn’t seen her working over a light, and wonders what could be wrong.
Liesl enlists Po’s assistance in contacting her recently deceased father, and becomes determined to return his ashes to the willow tree by the house where they once lived with her mother. To do so she will have to escape the grips of her stepmother and make a journey with a box of ashes, a ghost, and his pet. Meanwhile, Will bungles his delivery and confuses the alchemist’s box of powerful magic with a box of ashes from the undertaker. He’s forced to go on the run from an irate master and his more than disappointed client.
I believe it’s no secret to any audiobook fan that Jim Dale is the best. I’ll listen to anything he does, and snapped up Liesl and Po as soon as I saw him listed as narrator. While it may be hard to draw the line between Dale’s charisma and the actual story, I found myself charmed by Lauren Oliver’s middle grade tale. I felt the story had an almost Roald Dahl-like quality that I find irresistible. In particular, I was reminded of Matilda in the way that all of the adults in the tale seem to be evil and selfish, and equally convinced that all children are conniving and full of lies. However, unlike Matilda who is rescued by the kindness of a good woman, the only adults in Liesl and Po who seems kind are either largely dim witted or dead.
I did find myself questioning the choice to call the story after these two particular characters, as surely Will is at least as important as Po. In fact, I was somewhat annoyed with the reality that Oliver felt the need to create a jealous sort of friendship triangle where the characters were too young to have a love triangle. Additionally, I felt that the characters read as younger than Liesl’s stated 11 years, and seemed more like they were closer to 9. I’m sad that I am unable to comment on the illustrations as I haven’t seen them, but Jim Dale provided an excellent counterbalance for this loss. In the end there may have been a few loose ends that bothered me, but overall I found the tale of a journey and a series of un/fortunate coincidences lovely.
Likelihood that I’ll be back for more: Both of Lauren Oliver’s other books have been sitting in my TBR pile for some time, and I’m hoping to at least get to Delirium before or shortly after Pandemonium releases.
Recommended for: Fans of Roald Dahl and MG fantasy, anyone who enjoys a Jim Dale audiobook.
Real life repercussions of reading this book: I have a new appreciation for the word, “ineffable” as a word to describe what words cannot describe.