Saturday, November 5, 2016

"My Diary from the Edge of the World" by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Published by Aladdin
Released in 2015

In Gracie Lockwood's world, the Earth is flat, all manner of sasquatch, dragon and ghost roam the land, and floating Black Clouds take away people's souls when they die.  Gracie's biggest concerns were her annoying sister, her ridiculed scientist of a father people call La La Land Lockwood, and the mysterious new kid at school about which rumors circulate the cafeteria tables.  That is, until a Cloud appears at their doorstep to take away her sickly little brother.  Unwilling to let him go, the Lockwoods pile into a Winnebago and run away, embarking on a journey full of humor, magic, and surprising twists.  Their destination: the Extraordinary World, a place that few believe in.

INGREDIENTS:  a dismantled railroad, To Kill a Mockingbird, ghost ships, a box of donuts, and an evil genie.

MAIN CHARACTER:  The thing about diary form is that the author has an excuse to fill the pages of the book with the main character's every thought and opinion. It's very possible - even probable - that the author can go overboard with that, but although I was in Gracie Lockwood's head the whole time, almost every one of her thoughts was so interesting that I never got bored with her ramblings (they were interesting ramblings).  One of the small things I liked about her was how she used "uglyish" and "prettyish" in place of the more common "kinda ugly" or "kinda pretty." Overall, reading her diary was a lovely and unforgettable experience.

THEMES:  Family.  Family all the way.  It was about protecting little Sam, it was about trusting Dad, it was about tolerating Millie.  It was about sticking together and not falling apart.  It was about helping each other and making it through to the end.  Life is a journey you aren't meant to make alone.  Your family is supposed to be there for you, up until the end, no matter what happens.  They are yours, and you are theirs.

WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE:  As is the case with many fantasy novels, there are several things in this book that were a little on the too weird side.  For instance, Gracie's grandmother is a witch.  Also, there's a slight romance between a human and a guardian angel.  I hate books with that - I mean, a human and an angel?  It's just weird.  But it wasn't so "there" that I felt compelled to stop, and other than the fact that there are some silly, non-scary ghosts and that death is in the form of a hovering cloud, nothing else made me raise my eyebrows in suspicion.    

WHAT I LOVED:  Oh, geez.  Which part to write about...?  Well, probably what I enjoyed the most was how Jodi Lynn Anderson tweaked our world, turning it into the Lockwood's fantastical Earth.  Instead of being round, it's flat.  All the countries and states are the same (the Lockwoods live in Maine), and most of the wars mentioned are well-known events in actual history, though she tweaked those by including creatures like sasquatches in several of them.  But dragons fly south for the winter, usually burning down a couple businesses along the way, and the Great Kraken lurks at Cape Horn attacking any ship that enters its territory.  My Diary from the Edge of the World is the type of book I want to write someday - creative, touching, sad at times, hilarious at times.  A beginning that will sweep you up on the wings of blissful fantasy, a middle that will have you completely tuning out our normal world, and an ending that will grip your heart tighter and tighter until you feel as if it might shatter. (You will have to read it yourself to find out if that's because of beauty, heartbreak, both, or something else entirely!)  This amazing novel has it all.

RECOMMENDED:  It has a teeny tiny bit of a Rick Riordan feel to it (NOT in terms of Greek mythology), so I'll gladly point it at fans of Percy Jackson.  But it's still very different, so I'd mainly recommend it to those who love books in diary form, and especially fans of fairy/giant/dragon fantasy, if you know what I mean.  Really, though, I wouldn't want anyone to miss out on My Diary from the Edge of the World.                   

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