Aladdin/Simon & Schuster, 2015 383 pgs
The Story Thieves series
Owen is a bit of a loner with an unexciting life. His days consist of school, helping his mother at her job at the town library, and reading books. All this changes when he sees his classmate Bethany appear to jump out of a book. Further investigation reveals that Bethany is half-human and half-fictional and has the ability to travel in, through, and out of books. Best of all, she can take others with her. Bethany's father has disappeared years before and Owen pledges to try to help her find him, only he secretly has ulterior movies. Owen plans to trick Bethany into taking them into the climax of the penultimate volume of his favorite series, meeting the hero Kiel Gnomenfoot, and changing the outcome, thus saving the day himself. Things get quickly out of control as the two new friends find themselves in the world of Owen's favorite series, caught up in the struggle of magic verses science. Alternating chapters tell the tales of our now separated heroes. Owen finds himself transported into the role of Kiel and must work with a robotic girl, who uses science to be combined with his previously unknown magic to save the day. Meanwhile Bethany teams up with the real Kiel and the actual author of the series to try to put the series back to rights and to save the lives of their friends. Will the four young people manage to find a compromise in the imaginary book world between science and magic? Will they survive it? Do Bethany and Owen manage to get back to the real world? Does Bethany find her father? Some plot lines are satisfactorily resolved, while others are purposely left dangling in order to entice readers to pick up the next volume in the series: The Stolen Chapters, released earlier this year. Volume three is set to be released early next year.
Riley, author of the Half Upon a Time series, offers a new series perfect for book lovers. The story moves along at a breath-taking pace with twists, turns, and chapter cliff-hangers galore. The plot gets a bit involved and the two story lines move back and forth quickly, making this more of a choice for kids who are seasoned readers. That said, there is much to bite into for those willing to take the plunge. I sometimes felt confused with the back and forth of the plots and it took me a bit of time to get back into the story when starting a new chapter, making this book not for kids who need a linear storyline. Riley breaks the forth wall as our characters blur the lines between reality and fiction, eventually involving the author to help them sort the whole mess out. This is an unusual and fresh contribution to the fantasy/adventure genre and will be loved by those readers starved for something new, different, and intellectually challenging. Both boys and girls will enjoy this story and relate to the adventure. Perfect for book lovers, references are made to other works of children's fiction, which I would have liked to see gathered in a bibliography at the end of the volume. My favorite quote comes from Owen's librarian mother who says "The second rule they taught us in librarian school is that you can have as many favorite books as there are books". Owen's mom and I must have went to different library schools, because I didn't learn this at mine, but I whole heartily agree!