Liesl and Po by Lauren Oliver
Rating: G; 5 stars
Summary: Liesl's world is dark and gray, literally. The sun hasn't shown in years; Liesl's father has recently died; Liesl hasn't seen the world outside of her attic bedroom in months. Then, Po turns up. Po is a ghost, neither male nor female. Po is unfamiliar with the world of the living. It has been on the Other Side so long that things like manners and lying are forgotten. When Will, the apprentice to the local alchemist makes a late-night mistake, both Liesl and Po's world will be turned upside-down, for the better.
Opinions: This was not a book that I thought would make me cry, yet it did just that. Liesl and Po reads like all of my favorite middle grade novels, including The Tale of Despereaux, Tuesdays at the Castle, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, and The Castle Corona. There is a certain magic to book like these. A younger audience is clearly defined, but nowhere did I feel talked down to. The concept and characters contain a liveliness that I don't often seen in books written for older audiences. It's hard to put words to it, but there's an atmosphere where every word has an energy to it.
For anyone who has read Lauren Oliver before, this isn't like what she normally writes. At least, it isn't like Delirium; I haven't actually read Before I Fall. However, she has attested in the back of Liesl and Po that it is different from everything else she's written, both in the content and the process. I won't say anymore, because I believe her message at the end should be read in full and not paraphrased. In any case, Liesl and Po has a vastly different feel from Delirium, and whether you loved or hated Delirium, I believe Liesl and Po should be given a chance.
But what made it so good? So, so many things. The concept was a big part of how much I enjoyed this book. Oliver's fleshing out of the Other Side was very believable. The magic worked in flawlessly to the rest of the plot. Along with concept, I felt that the role each of the characters played was well-defined. I did feel that there were almost too many characters present in the climax, but they all did play an important role, and all of their story-lines did need to be wrapped up, so I can definitely see why Oliver made that choice.
Also character-wise, I felt that Oliver did a really good job pulling off the idea of introducing random characters, only to make them important later. This is something that I first saw used in The Tale of Despereaux. I loved it in Liesl and Po as much as I loved it in Despereaux, and Oliver uses it to her advantage.
Plot-wise, Liesl and Po twisted and turned in ways that I didn't expect. Simple elements that I didn't expect to be important ended up bearing a ton of significance. Oliver really wove together a detailed, tight plot.
In general, I absolutely loved this book. There was a magic to it that I don't often find in books. I think it is absolutely appropriate for middle-schoolers, and younger children will probably enjoy it too, although they may need someone to read it to them. This is a wonderful book. It's a quick read, and it definitely worth the time it takes to read it.