Allison's Book Bag

Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston

Posted on: June 24, 2010

Wondrous strange things are happening to Kelley and her friends–and characters in young adult novels all across the country. That’s the main problem with Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston. It’s been done, not just once but many times. Yet therein also lies at least some of its success. We know this tale, we love this tale, and we’re willing to read it one more time if it’s well done.

At least, us females will. This is a romance, so boys you can leave. Yes, it’s also a fantasy, but its heart is romance. And so it follows the standard formula: Girl meets guy. Girl falls for guy, who is always handsome and also almost immediately attracted to her. He’s also the dark and quiet type, not to be mistaken for the blonde and popular type. The latter rarely fall for the girl until the end of the book–and then more often this happens in so-called realistic romances. Boy is also bad or at least troubled or different. (AKA, vampire, werewolf, fairy, or…. I don’t see too many aliens this days, but perhaps that’s because I’m a fantasy lover.)

Okay, now that you know the plot, I won’t bore you with the further details except to mention Kelley’s unique background. She is a high school graduate, living in New York, and looking to land her next big stage job. We read about Kelley earning her first break, bumbling through a script, and eventually stumbling to balance stage life with the mystical life.

Oddly enough, her unique background is what helps lift the book out of the slush pile. That Livingston accurately portrays how a young woman would react to encountering the fairy world for the first time is also a plus, as is her alluring descriptions of fantastical creatures and their magical world. This book does right what Princess Diaries didn’t, although it still fails to provide more than a glimpse into the supernatural world. Most of the time, descriptions are rooted in real-life New York. Why do so many of our modern fantasy authors depend on human landscapes to populate their books? Imagining other worlds that humans fall into is difficult no doubt, but others such as Lewis and more recently Collins have. Our world is richer for their books.

Wondrous Strange is competent, which I know is only mild praise. Don’t get me wrong; this book is worth a read. As its plot thickened, I found myself racing through paragraphs to learn the fate of Kelley and her friends. The characters are delightfully ecletic and include sirens, janus, and kelpie. The book never succumbs to be a straightforward romance as Princess Diaries dismally did. Yet even as a romance, it makes for a fun couple hours. There just isn’t anything exceptional about it. Borrow it, read it, post comments, and then move on to the more solid books. This is just dessert.

PS But if you happen to read the sequels, please drop me a note to let me in on what happens.

My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.

How would you rate this book?

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