Liesl & Po
By Lauren Oliver
Expected publication October 4, 2011 by Harper
Liesl lives in her attic - well, actually, her stepmother has locked her in the attic ever since Liesl's father got sick. And now he's gone and Liesl never got to say goodbye. But on the third night after his death, Po appears in Liesl's room. Po is a ghost. Together, along with a distraught former alchemist's apprentice and maybe (just maybe) a little help from the greatest magic in the world, Liesl and Po will undergo a journey that will change them both.
This is Oliver's first book for middle-grade readers and, in an introductory note in my ARC, her most personal book yet. This book is beautiful. Oliver tells the story simply but engagingly. She doesn't really do anything fancy with the writing and it suits this story just fine. Because the story Oliver has crafted is powerful and moving and lovely. This is really a story for all ages - after all, who doesn't want to find out what the greatest magic in the world is? Liesl is a character that will break your heart and life your spirits - she is a sad girl, but not so sad that she has become damaged. This book is full of lovely metaphor and layers, but nothing that overwhelms the essence of the story. The supporting characters here are all executed flawlessly as well - though Oliver may utilize the "evil stepmother" trope, it serves its purpose and is told so beautifully that it doesn't feel tired. I loved getting Po's perspective as well - it filled the story out. I liked how Liesl and Will intersect and become important to each other. This book was just such a delight - I couldn't put it down. My one complaint: the ARC is lacking the illustrations that will appear in the finished addition. I would have loved to see the art that will accompany the story; I think it will add another beautiful layer to the story.
Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.