Author: Tahereh Mafi
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy/Adventure
Published: August 30, 2016
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Quick Synopsis: 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. (Goodreads)
My Review: Many of you probably know of Tahereh Mafi’s YA Shatter Me trilogy which exploded not long ago, but this is Tahereh’s first dive into the Middle Grade world. As a fan of Shatter Me, I was really excited for this release, but I also had no idea what to expect (other than beautiful writing, as is customary for Tahereh). What I got was a vivid, whimsical, fairy tale-like adventure with two extremely unique and enjoyable protagonists. I was sucked into this colorful world from the first page and, dare I say, I think I enjoyed this even more than any of the Shatter Me books.
Something about the book community that’s always bothered me a little bit is the way a surprising amount of people put down or steer away from Middle Grade because of the fact that it’s aimed at a primarily younger audience. Unless it’s J.K. Rowling or Rick Riordan, some readers just don’t want it. That being said, I’ve seen several reviews on Goodreads of Furthermore written by people who loved Tahereh’s YA trilogy, but just couldn’t connect with this because it was “too young” or “too Middle Grade” (whatever that means). The entire time I was reading this book, I kept thinking of those reviews and realizing how much I disagreed with them. Sure, there are all of the typical tropes of classic Middle Grade (the hero’s journey, themes about time, the helping animal, magic, etc.), but Tahereh put such a lovely twist on all of that. I got just as much out of this story as I would any YA or Adult book, and the kid in me was oh so satisfied. Furthermore was a wonderful read, and not just “good for a Middle Grade,” but as a book equal to any other.
One of my favorite aspects of this book was the somewhat unconventional narration style. The story is told mostly in third person, but occasionally, the narrator would jump in and talk to the reader directly. The narrator gave the readers little secrets and important facts about the world and other little asides. This really made the book personal, and it added a lot to the fairy-tale feel. It felt like I was being told a story from a dear friend. I absolutely loved the narration.
Another standout was Alice, the protagonist. At barely 12 years old she is fierce, independent, and wonderfully unique. Alice takes no crap from anyone and cares so deeply about Father, and she is a joy to read about. I cared about her journey, her insecurities, her desires, everything. She is one of the most compelling young protagonists I’ve read about in a long time. Not to mention she has great style and level eleven sass that are hard not to love her for. Her companion (turned friend), Oliver, really grew on me throughout their journey together. The more I learned about Oliver, the more I liked him. He isn’t your typical perfect, charming male protagonist. He definitely has flaws and annoyed me at times, but he was the most twelve year old twelve year old, which is to say I found him extremely realistic. By the end of the novel, I loved him as much as Alice, and their friendship really warmed my heart. Both characters undergo a lot of character development in such a short time because of their adventures, and I think they both come out more sure of themselves and each other in the end.
The last big stand-outs were the worlds within this book. Furthermore took me on a ride of colorful, detailed, and magical visuals. Each land had their own rules and magic, and while I never knew what was coming next, I always knew that I would be blown away by the creativity and imagination that undoubtedly went into thinking up the places Alice and Oliver journeyed through. I could see everything so clearly in my mind, playing out like an animated movie. I was taken away from our world and dropped into a foreign yet enticing new one. I was fully immersed. Of course, none of this would have been possible if not for Tahereh’s gorgeous writing. That was one of my favorite things about the Shatter Me trilogy, and yet the flowery, metaphorical sentences seemed to fit even more so in this story. Tahereh’s writing is so distinct and lovely. There were so many sentences and passages that I marked because of it.
Sadly, this book is only a standalone, though I have heard Tahereh say she is writing a new Middle Grade in the same world but following a different land and cast of characters. I will most definitely be anticipating that! I was simultaneously happy and sad to have finished Furthermore; it ended perfectly, but I really didn’t want it to end at all.
If you love great characters, fun adventures, and magic, I would highly recommend Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi.
Until next time,