Wednesday, October 24, 2012

YA Fantasy Book Review: "Root Bound"

I had the distinct pleasure to read Tanya Karen Gough's Root Bound- Emma and the Elementals for this week's "we-read Wednesday" book review!  I enjoyed this unique and whimsical fantasy story so much that I gave it 4.5 stars!
"How far will you go to find your way home? Emma and her father are always on the move, travelling from place to place as her father’s work demands. Their new home, however, is different. There’s a frightening woman who lives down the hall: she bears an uncanny resemblance to a witch. A mysterious light comes from her apartment, and a small boy seems to be trapped inside. School in this town is no happy place either, with an odd principal and a gang of girls who make tormenting Emma their special project. And strangest of all is the fact that there seem to be brownies - basement brownies, in the air vent in her bedroom. Haunted by visions of her mother, Emma travels through the brownie burrow to the valley of Hades to visit with the goddess Ceres, following a series of clues that lead her across the sea of memory to the centre of the world. There, on an inhospitable rock floating in a sea of steaming lava, Emma must find a way to release her mother from the sea of memory and restore magic to both the brownie burrow and the human world above."
I didn't know what to expect with this YA Fantasy book, but I was pleasantly surprised with Ms. Gough's smart and well developed story!  Her choice to combine classic children's literature and Greek and Roman mythology with new fantasy ideas was unique and likely to inspire youth to re-examine or experience the classic literature for the first time. 
I appreciated the themes commonly found in YA books like popular vs. unpopular, the challenges of moving from place to place as a teen, and good vs. evil, that somehow Gough effortlessly made  new yet relatable.  Adding elements of music along with all of the plot's twists and turns, make this an adventure that keeps adults just as intellectually engaged as the teen. 
My only criticism with this delightful, whimsical book is that I wish Gough explained the brownie's in more detail.  I wasn't extremely familiar with the brownie folklore before reading the story, and went back and forth visualizing a baked chocolate treat with legs and a tiny mouse-like human until I looked up what they really were online and discovered they were like a small goblin in folklore. But isn't this also a win for what I imagine Gough was hoping for?  It encouraged and inspired me to learn something new about all of the classic folklore and mythology she relates to in the story. 
At first I felt like the first half of the story was too developed and I wish it had moved faster to the world of "under" in the second half of the book.  However, as you learn more and more throughout the story, it makes sense why Gough went to the trouble of developing so much in the first half, where everything comes together quite masterfully in the end.  There were also a few typos throughout the story, but nothing that totally interrupted the flow or enjoyment of the book.
I hope you pick up your copy of Root Bound, available at Amazon:  Your middle schooler will definitely appreciate this exciting and relatable read this holiday season!
Happy Reading,

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