Author: Tahereh Mafi
Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers
There are only three things that matter to twelve-year-old Alice Alexis Queensmeadow: Mother, who wouldn’t miss her; magic and color, which seem to elude her; and Father, who always loved her. The day Father disappears from Ferenwood he takes nothing but a ruler with him. But it’s been almost three years since then, and Alice is determined to find him. She loves her father even more than she loves adventure, and she’s about to embark on one to find the other.
But bringing Father home is no small matter. In order to find him she’ll have to travel through the mythical, dangerous land of Furthermore, where down can be up, paper is alive, and left can be both right and very, very wrong. It will take all of Alice’s wits (and every limb she’s got) to find Father and return home to Ferenwood in one piece. On her quest to find Father, Alice must first find herself—and hold fast to the magic of love in the face of loss.
Whimsical. Almost every review I have read about Furthermore, describes this middle-grade novel as whimsical.
As it turns out, whimsical is an apt description.
First off, the cover art. Isn’t it gorgeous? I freely and humbly admit that picking up this book was purely a case of judging a book by its cover! It’s very fitting…Alice Alexis Queensmeadow stands out in her home land for being devoid of color in a world obsessed by it. And she stands out on the book cover as well, for much the same reasons. I read a library copy, and I usually keep library books in our lovely little library basket when not actively reading a book. With Furthermore, I kept displaying it at various spots around the house. It is just that much fun and so mood uplifting to see! All the images started to come together and make sense as I continued my journey through the book, and it was fun to use the cover art almost like a reference map as I was reading.
In Ferenwood, magic is a part of every day life, and all Ferenwood citizens possess a type of magical ability. It is a town where magic is grown and harvested – I do wish this aspect had been explained in a bit more detail – and a place where all 12 year olds have to participate in the Surrender.
I was briefly worried, but no, the Surrender does not go in the direction of The Hunger Games. Whew! In the Surrender, children must demonstrate – surrender – their greatest power. They are then given a task to complete, something that will help better the town of Ferenwood. A magical community service project, one could say.
Sounds simple, but in a land that is like a topsy-turvy Wonderland with a dash of Harry Potter and a pinch of Unfortunate Events, nothing is simple and straightforward.
Because, dear reader, we have Alice. A blank canvas in a world of vivid color. Alice’s father went missing three years ago, and her mother seems to take out her sadness on Alice more than anyone else. As I don’t want to go into too many details as to how Alice’s journey to find Father begins, I will just change topics too…
“Some evenings all the unspoken hurts piled high on their plates and they ate sorrow with their syrup.”
The writing! This book was SO much fun to read. Sometimes, whimsical, metaphor-laden writing becomes a chore. That was definitely not the case for Furthermore! Taherah Mafi is an amazingly talented writer, and Furthermore is a pure joy to read. It’s the kind of novel, like Alice in Wonderland, that you need to just accept the oddity and absurdity, and go with the flow.
Another thing I really loved, especially considering it is a middle-grade book, is the character growth of Alice and Oliver. Alice has some important lessons to learn (so does Oliver!), the biggest of which is learning to love herself just the way she is, no matter what other people think. Studies have shown that a girl’s self-esteem and positive body image peaks at 9 years old, and body shaming by peers – and sadly, sometimes family members – definitely starts to build in the later elementary years. Furthermore sends a positive message to this age demographic to embrace and love themselves as they are.
The only complaint I would have about Furthermore is the abruptness of the ending. The story is building and building, and suddenly you are over the hurdle and at the end of the book. It just happened too quickly.
“The morning arrived the way Alice imagined a whisper would: in tendrils of gray and threads of gold, quietly, quietly. The sky was illuminated with great care and deliberation, and she leaned back to watch it bloom.”
Overall, I really enjoyed this middle-grade novel, which appeals to kids and adults alike!