July 24, 2012

The Apothecary by Maile Meloy

This is an unusual historical fiction/fantasy that starts firmly rooted in reality but soon requires a complete suspension of disbelief. It is 1952 and 14 year old Janie is told that she is leaving the comfort of her home in Los Angeles, for London. Her parents are Hollywood writers who fear that McCarthyism will force them to testify against their colleagues, and so they leave to London for refuge. London is a world apart from L.A., but Janie tries to adapt. She is fascinated with a boy from school, Benjamin, who is openly defiant, and fascinated with being a spy. She learns that he is the son of the apothecary from a shop down the street from her apartment. When the apothecary disappears, Janie and Ben discover a book left to them called the Pharmacopoeia, which they discover is magical, and sought by Russian spies. Janie and Ben must unravel the mystery of Ben's father's disappearance, why the Russians want the book, and the magic contained in the book itself. It is the magic the book offers that ultimately give Janie and Ben the power to solve the mystery.

I REALLY wanted to love this book, as many students recommended it to me. For some reason, I just didn't feel the magic the way I have in other books. Perhaps the realistic setting made it too difficult for me to accept the magic, as well as the fact that Janie's parents seem loving and caring, but decide to leave her on her own in London for a time (but necessary to leave her open for the adventure she pursues). I would recommend The Apothecary, but its definitely not a favorite.
Reed Reads Score: 3.5

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