by Shannon Hale
Roaring Brook Press, 2020. 394 pages.
Review written September 8, 2020, from a library book
Josie Pie was kind of a big deal in high school. She starred in the school musicals ever since she was a Freshman. She went to Washington, DC, and won a Jimmy Award. She got a chance to audition on Broadway, so she dropped out of high school and moved to New York to audition – and struck out. She scrounged for a while, trying to get parts, and took a nanny job to pay the bills.
As the book opens, Josie’s in Missoula, Montana, where the single mom she nannied for decided to move and now is on a trip to Kenya. She has a large credit card debt from New York City. She’s in charge of a preschool girl who’s starting to have some issues. Her boyfriend Justin is communicating with her less and less. She doesn’t know how to make friends with the standoffish other college-age nannies. She goes to a bookstore for some escapist reading.
And then she starts getting sucked into books.
First, it’s the tawdry romance the handsome bookstore clerk gave her. The characters all have the faces of the people she saw before she was sucked in, and the highwayman hero has Justin’s face. In fact, she gets to do some long-missed kissing before she comes back to reality and discovers only a couple minutes have passed.
It happens again with a book called Valentine’s Day that, despite its name, ends up being a post-apocalyptic horror novel. But a man with Justin’s face helps her fight the Zombloid hordes.
I think my favorite of the books she goes into is the graphic novel, told in graphic novel format, of course. As the overall story progresses, Josie has to figure out what’s going on with the books, if she has any control over what’s happening, how can she face life after peaking in high school, and where she’ll go from here.
And yes, there’s some danger if she stays too long in a book. Will she be able to get back to reality?
This is a fun story creatively told by a brilliant fantasy writer. It has more of a Contemporary feel than her other books set in fantasy kingdoms. I enjoyed the scene of Josie failing spectacularly in a community theatre audition. You can’t help but feel for her!
And how nice to have a book about being Kind of a Big Deal in high school. My ex-husband and I used to talk about how we chose our college majors as fields in which we won awards in high school – me in Math and him in Tuba Performance. It took soul-searching and thinking to turn my life toward Library Science instead. For Josie in this book, it hits her sooner, at 17, that maybe she doesn’t have to stick all her life with what made her Kind of a Big Deal in high school. That discovery isn’t easy for her, but it comes with lots of recognition humor for readers.
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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.
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