Review: “Furthermore” by Tahereh Mafi

Here’s the thing: I don’t read a lot of middle grade. It isn’t really my thing but I’ve come to appreciate the differences between each genre of literature, especially in age gap genres like MG, YA, and NA (I still struggle with NA a bit but that’s another story).

When Mafi released Furthermore, I was a little hesitant about it. Although it sounded wonderful, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. I’ve only read the 1st book in the “Shatter Me” series and while I enjoyed it, it’s not something I’ve made a priority on my TBR pile. Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy this book but… Not as much as I hoped. I wouldn’t necessarily put it along with “overhyped books” but let’s just say I was fairly underwhemled.

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Title: Furthermore
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers
Release date: August 30, 2016
Length: 416 pages (hardcover)
Genre: Middle grade, young adult, fantasy, adventure
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) “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. Her only companion is a boy named Oliver whose own magical ability is based in lies and deceit–and with a liar by her side in a land where nothing is as it seems, 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.”

My rating: 3/5 stars

Here’s the thing: I don’t read a lot of middle grade literature now that I’m not in middle school. I know, I know, that’s not an excuse for anything but there were multiple times that I wanted to stop reading this and it made me sad that I wanted to do that. I’ve only read Shatter Me and Destroy Me and I loved both of them so when I saw that Mafi was releasing a MG book, I thought, “Oh yes! Let me read this!” So I did. It was pitched as a loose “Alice in Wonderland” retelling. Okay, cool. I haven’t even read “Alice in Wonderland” so… *shrugs*

Alice Alexis Queensmeadow lives in Ferenwood with her mother and three younger brothers. Ferenwod is a world built with color. It’s everywhere and everything but the strange thing about Alice is: she was born without color except her honey-colored eyes. Naturally, having no color, Alice was always the butt of jokes and considered quite strange. When she turns twelve, she and all the other 12-year-olds perform their Surrender, a unique magical gift which they show off to the Elders and then receive a task to complete for however long it takes. Unfortunately, for Alice, things don’t go as planned. She wants to desperately find her father, whose been missing for three years. When a boy named Oliver Newbanks tells her he knows where her father is, Alice reluctantly agrees to follow him to the land of Furthermore, a land very different from her own Ferenwood. How far will Alice go to save the one person she loves the most?

“Love made her fearless, and wasn’t it strange? It was so much easier to fight for another than it was to fight for oneself.” 

And here’s what I love: 1) the cover. Ahhhhh, gorgeous, beautiful, colorful and so magical! 2) This book is magical and whimsical. 3) It teaches you to accept yourself, not to change yourself in order to please the people around you or in order to fit in with others. That’s what I loved the most about it.

But the thing is… All the magical and whimsy-ness (is that word? I’m making it one) couldn’t save it from the descriptions and over flowery language. For me, it weighed the book down. I was drowning in the adjectives. But maybe that’s how other MG lit is, descriptions after description to let the imagination run wild. And yes, mine did. I haven’t read all of her Shatter Me series but I can see how her writing has changed–matured–from series to another. I don’t mind that at all.

But the book dragged on. And on and on. Sometimes I forgot the purpose of book. Is it about Oliver Newbanks, the boy who took Alice into Furthermore so they could find her father, or was it actually about finding Alice’s father? I suppose I can see how all their adventures caused them to have a strong friendship, which is great too. But then there’s obstacle after obstacle and we really don’t find Alice’s father (view spoiler). I just figured it would happen sooner and that’s why I felt like DNF the book.

The narrator was also interesting. The story is told in third person but occasionally we get a first person narrator as well–small snippets and such but it’s an interesting way to write. I don’t see this dual narrative very often and I think it worked well here though I was never sure who exactly “I” was.

I persevered though and I was rewarded mildly, I think. Overall, the book has a good message, perfect summed up by something Alice’s father told her:

“Why must you look like the rest of us? Why do you have to be the one to change? Change the way we see. Don’t change the way you are.”

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