Liesl & Po

2 10 2011

Liesl lives in a tiny attic bedroom, locked away by her cruel stepmother. Her only friends are the shadows and the mice—until one night a ghost appears from the darkness. It is Po, who comes from the Other Side. Both Liesl and Po are lonely, but together they are less alone.
That same night, an alchemist’s apprentice, Will, bungles an important delivery. He accidentally switches a box containing the most powerful magic in the world with one containing something decidedly less remarkable.
Will’s mistake has tremendous consequences for Liesl and Po, and it draws the three of them together on an extraordinary journey.
From New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver comes a luminous and magnificent novel that glows with rare magic, ghostly wonders, and a true friendship that lights even the darkest of places.

How did I get this book: I recieved an ARC from a teen library group that I’m on. 😀

So, first things first: I have wanted an ARC forever. I have always dreamed of it, wanted to see the typos and unfinished artwork, wanted to be one of those people who gets to see the story first. And finally, I got one.

I’d hoped that it would be amazing. But I promised myself, even if the story stunk, I would still keep it on my bookshelf. It would be an ARC, mine, something to be proud of. The truth is that I had nothing to worry about.

Liesl and Po was a great introduction to the world of ARCs, and a delightful book to read.

The basic story is simple: Liesl lives alone, locked up in her attic by her cruel stepmother. One night, Po, a ghost, arrives, accompained by his half-cat, half-dog pet, Bundle. Liesl and Po become friends, and Liesl asks Po to venture into the Other Side (the land of the dead) to find her recently deceased father. Po does, and finds that Liesl’s father wants nothing more than to be placed beside the willow tree, thousands of miles away, beside his late wife.

The basic concept is a bit cliched, and when I saw that Liesl was locked up in her attic I rolled my eyes. Fairytale cliche one, in my opinion–locked up girl, not knowing what to do with herself but reading her way out of situations and scheming about how to get out. But Liesl turned into so much more than that. She was strong, inquinstitive, funny, and creative. She was truly very strong, but also a bit nutty (which more than one character remarks upon).

Po was less developed in terms of the main characters. To tell you more about his back story — well, I can’t (major spoilers). But he was still funny and cute. My favorite line of his was from about page 3:

“Are you here to haunt me?” Liesl asked.
Po sighed. He hated when humans thought ghosts existed only to jump out at them, hide behind abandoned wearhouses and scare them.
“No,” he said finally. “We have better things to do with our time.”

He was probably the cutest character in the story. 🙂

Will was equally well developed, but then I come to my problems with the characters. The minor characters were all a bit cliched. There was evil stepmother Augusta, complete with murder, a rotund body and an icy daughter; thickheaded Mo, soft and sweet; the Lady Premiere, who was like a stepsister; and then the alchemist, who seemed a bit Jack Frost-esque to me. The characters were cliche, but they were a bit obvious.

They all seemed to fall into the same character holes: sweet, slightly naive and thickheaded; evil and mean with almost no reason (Augusta had no reason, really, but the Lady Premiere did), and wanting revenge and being dasterdly.

I’m probably going too deep — the book is MG, and the characters are developed well enough that you still like them — but they seemed a bit too obvious.

Onto the plot. I thought the plot would be cliche when I read the description (which by the way is different then the one on my ARC, HECK YEAH), but it wasn’t. Oliver’s lyricsm was on full blast, with goregous descriptions of scenery and characters. Sometimes the lyricsm seemed a bit much, like Oliver had written it that way since lyricsm was her “trademark”. After Delirium, Oliver’s last novel, I was worried about her next book.

But she triumphed. The book is a cute, fun romp full of twists and turns and a story I definitly would have enjoyed when I was younger. I still enjoyed it, though, and I think teens would still find it a fun, quick read.

Now, the part where I get to brag and talk about funny things in my ARCs. On the back, where the Library of Congress description is and such, Lauren Oliver’s name is wrong. 😛 She’s credited as Laura Schedenfrude. Apparently she changed her name right before the book went to print. XD It’s a small mistake, but it was still funny.

There are also some cool tidbits, like on one page there is no art and instead gray boxes saying “ART TO COME”; the author and illustrator bios are missing and replaced with “LAUREN OLIVER BIO TK” (not sure what TK stands for; “To Come” has no K), and most of the art are sketches. It’s obvious because there is some finished art, and it’s a thousand times more clear and fleshed out then the rest.

So, to finish up, I recommend getting Lisel and Po the second it comes out. ;D Lauren Oliver has triumphed again, and I think she has returned to her “groove”, especially after so many people disliked Delirium. A cute, fun, middle grade romp that’s sure to be a delight for everyone, filled with Oliver’s goregous writing and a clever plot.

4.5 Stars: Recommended, A few Nitpicks




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