By: Maile Meloy
Illustrations by: Ian Schoenherr
Published by: C.P. Putnam's Sons/Penguin
Released on: October 4th, 2011
Source: ARC from publisher to review
4.5 stars: I Really Enjoyed It
It's 1952 and the Scott family has just moved from Los Angeles to London. Here, fourteen-year-old Janie meets a mysterious apothecary and his son, Benjamin Burrows - a fascinating boy who's not afraid to stand up to authority and dreams of becoming a spy. When Benjamin's father is kidnapped, Janie and Benjamin must uncover the secrets of the apothecary's sacred book, the Pharmacopoeia, in order to find him, all while keeping it out of the hands of their enemies - Russian spies in possession of nuclear weapons. Discovering and testing potions they never believed could exist, Janie and Benjamin embark on a dangerous race to save the apothecary and prevent impending disaster.
Together with Ian Schoenherr's breathtaking illustrations, this is a truly stunning package from cover to cover. -quoted from Goodreads
The Apothecary is an exciting story with a beautiful blend of fiction and historical references, set in London during the early 1950's. In a world that's still reeling from WWII, Maile Meloy takes readers into a world full of spies, danger, suspense, and has a thrilling adventure laced with magic. This story's enticing plot line starts out in LA, California with young Janie and her parents and soon after the story begins follows them to London. Here Janie befriends an Apothecary's son, Benjamin and the two of them soon find themselves in the middle of a secret world full of spies, betrayal, murder, magic and danger as they race to save Benjamin's kidnapped father. The era, and the setting really set the tone for this intriguing story.
I'm a huge sucker for historical settings and events, and I was so mesmerized by the way Maile was able to blend those together with both historical and fictional events to bring her story to life. She created this exciting, suspenseful story that was believable and one I really enjoyed reading. Life in London after WWII is not all blissful, and Maile allows readers to see what life was like contrasting life in CA vs London for Janie. It was a bit of an eye opening experience for Janie, as she left behind the comforts of home and now she's moved into a run down flat with food rations, to dealing with bomb drills at school, to kid's who's parents are deemed as spies, to the suspicions that arise with foreign students. It's really whole different world for her.
There's a fabulous cast of characters from Janie, to her parents, Benjamin, his father, Pip the pick pocketer they befriend, schoolmates, the gardener and of course some great spies. Each character is written in a very realistic way, which really added to the story's "real life" feel. I really enjoyed getting to read about each of them, including Mr. Danby, who's character really surprised me. I was most intrigued by the apothecary elements of the story. I found the whole secret "underground" world that Benjamin's father is apart completing fascinating. Much of the story is centered around this.
The Apothecary is one of those well written stories that both middle and YA readers will really enjoy. It's a story that reads like watching a movie. It's enticing, exciting, and suspenseful. The magical elements of this story are very appealing and fit perfectly into the story line. The illustrations in the ARC are amazing and tie the story together perfectly. I'm really looking forward to seeing what they look like in the published copy of the book. The ending wraps up nicely, though I'm secretly hoping there will be more books in this series. I have to say the cover is a perfect fit for this story! Once you read the book, you'll know what I'm talking about. I highly recommend picking this book up. It's an awesome read!
**My review was originally posted on Mundie Moms, but since this is such a fabulous read for both YA and MG readers, I wanted to post about it on here as well.