Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi was the February read of The Magic Book Club and I can safely say: I loved it.
Goodreads synopsis: There are only three things that matter to twelve-year-old Alice Alexis Queensmeadow: Mother, who wouldn’t miss her; magic and color, which seem to elude her; and Father, who always loved her. The day Father disappears from Ferenwood he takes nothing but a ruler with him. But it’s been almost three years since then, and Alice is determined to find him. She loves her father even more than she loves adventure, and she’s about to embark on one to find the other.
But bringing Father home is no small matter. In order to find him she’ll have to travel through the mythical, dangerous land of Furthermore, where down can be up, paper is alive, and left can be both right and very, very wrong. It will take all of Alice’s wits (and every limb she’s got) to find Father and return home to Ferenwood in one piece. On her quest to find Father, Alice must first find herself—and hold fast to the magic of love in the face of loss.
My rating: 4,5 stars.
Furthermore reminded me of both Alice in Wonderland and Harry Potter. It’s witty and whimsical like Alice in Wonderland and it’s not a coincidence that the main character is called Alice. However, the world of Furthermore is more dangerous than Wonderland and though there is plenty of nonsense, there is more purpose to the story. The connection to Harry Potter is vaguer and probably more of a personal thing; I feel like young readers who loved or would love Harry Potter, would love Furthermore as well.
Ferenwood is a magical place and because of that, magic is treated very casually: it’s perfectly normal there, after all. I like how the narrator didn’t start off explaining everything in detail. Occasionally something important is explained in a brief aside, but apart from that the reader just has to accept that this is a world where the impossible is possible. This might be easier for children than for adults!
The main character, Alice, is not a perfect little girl: she’s stubborn and doesn’t accept no for an answer. She finds it hard to accept the things she doesn’t like and sometimes she makes mistakes, getting herself into more trouble. This made her very relatable to me; after all, even twelve year olds have flaws. On her quest to find her father, she is accompanied by Oliver Newbanks, a slightly older boy who rather enjoys being mysterious. Even though Alice dislikes him at first, they slowly become friends. Initially I was wary, afraid their friendship would seem forced, but the slow progression of their relationship seemed very natural.
The story is not extremely action-packed, but still keeps you on your toes and if I hadn’t been reading it with my bookclub, I would have probably finished it in one sitting. Once Alice and Oliver enter the mysterious and confusing world of Furthermore, danger is around every corner. I’m 22 years old and still found Furthermore so gripping it was hard to put down; I can only imagine how I would have felt ten or more years ago. I would probably have been completely shut off from the world for as long as it would have taken me to devour this book.
In conclusion: Furthermore is a gripping story for readers of all ages (but especially for middle graders) with a wonderful protagonist, a strange and whimsical world, and a witty writing style. Truly a magical read.