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Book Review – Furthermore

Whoever’s job it was to decorate had put a little too much sugar in the air and it was making Alice want to sneeze.

Well, this was certainly a well-imagined novel. But, it ended up falling a bit flat for me. 

Furthermore tells the story of Alice Queensmeadow, a young girl who enters a magical, yet entirely dangerous new land–Furthermore–where rules are stifling and time is divvied out like an allowance, in order to find her missing father.

The language was dazzling. It floated and colored the pages. But it was told curiously, through a very odd point of view, through a narrator we never got to know but just assumed Alice and Oliver, the main characters, knew intimately, despite their lack of acquaintances. 

I figured this narrator would reveal his or herself at the end so we felt kind of like, “ah, that’s who it is,” and you couldn’t believe you hadn’t guessed their identity sooner, but we never got that. The narrator starts and ends as an enigma. And it kinda sucks. I wanted to feel like I had known this person the whole time. Because he/she had some really dazzling moments. Some really profound revelations that would’ve been so much more meaningful had they been told from somebody we had gotten to know as a character in the story.

Love had made her fearless, and wasn’t it strange? It was so much easier to fight for another than it was to fight for oneself.

As I understand it, Furthermore is aimed at a younger audience–middle grade, early young adult–and I found the language of the characters, aged twelve and thirteen, to be far too advanced for its readers. I didn’t mind the maturity level as an older reader, but could see there were a few too many places where younger readers would get tripped up.

“People are so preoccupied with making sense despite it being the most uninteresting thing to manufacture.”

This is a beautiful line, I won’t deny that, but it’s a thirteen-year-old talking, like, in what world. 

Furthermore apparently. 

The descriptions, the world-building, it was all very majestic, grand, eloquent, but I think the author got a little too lost in her lyrical prose at times, and ended up writing confusing passages we tripped through, looking for light at the other side. 

I can’t deny her level of mastery, however. Marie Lu describes her as “a maestro of words,” and she’s so right. Her writing reads how I imagine a fairy’s would. It’s ethereal and atmospheric, and despite a few chunky paragraphs, it will pull you straight under and make up for the lack of plot-induced gasps with gasps of awe of its own. 

The morning arrived the way Alice imagined a whisper would: in tendrils of gray and threads of gold, quietly, quietly.

Sleeping homes exhaled quietly, smoking chimneys gently puffing, unlit windows glinting golden in the dawn. Dew had touched the earth and the earth touched back: Blades of grass shivered awake as they reached for the sky, freshly showered and slightly damp.

She was sure this velvety night cloaked infinite secrets.

She has a knack for sucking you into her world, into a place so unlike your own, with these words that feel like they’re living, breathing things. I swear I could become best friend’s with one of her pages, that’s how alive they truly felt. 

Whenever I read a novel, I mark my favorite sentences. But in this novel, I marked passages. You could physically see and watch Tahereh Mafi–the author–get into a groove. Fall into a perfect day where she could actually grasp and make sense of all the words floating above her head and kissing her scalp with whispers of inspiration, the ones that normally escape us as easily as the sunset. 

The characters were surprisingly witty, which sort of added to that maturity level, which was way beyond that of a normal twelve-year-old.

“I will find a lake and push you in it and then,” she said, poking him in the chest, “then you’ll discover the only use in having a head so full of hot air.”

They walked for days. Weeks. Months and years.

“Don’t be so dramatic,” Oliver said. “It’s only been fifteen minutes.”

I had an issue with time. By the end of the novel, Alice guesstimates that she’s been absent from her home for nearly a year, but it doesn’t feel like she’s been traveling for a year. It feels as though she’s been gone for maybe five or six days. 

And then it brings into question the little customs of Furthermore. The not sleeping, we only heard of Alice sleeping once, and the not eating, we only heard of Alice eating once. I understand the food was in the air, the magic was used so recklessly and they were perfectly nourished from the mere presence of it, but then why have a single moment where they’re eating and sleeping? I don’t believe the author went into that enough, and it raised a lot of questions in my mind. 

I also could’ve stood for a better ending. I didn’t understand, nor feel at all fulfilled by this ending. I think it made me more curious than anything else. And I don’t like unresolved, rushed departures from novels I spend nearly a week reading. 

It didn’t all come to a standstill, or a final battle, it just sort of withered away and pruned and died right before your eyes without much of a bang. It reminded me a bit of The Giver in that way. The Giver mixed with Alice in Wonderland.

So, I guess, when I’m looking back and assessing the pages and the material and all that made up this novel, I need to say that the best thing was and is Mafi’s writing. It was sugar-coated and bright, grandiose and easy to get lost in. 

Despite the story’s lazy closing, the novel’s words were gifts in their own, more painted than written. 

32/38

Can I please get a portrait done by the cover designer? Thanks.

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