The Apothecary, by Maile Meloy (2011)

Genre: Historical Fantasy
Interest level: 11-15
The ApothecaryFourteen-year-old Janie and her scriptwriter parents live in California, where the sun shines and juicy oranges are there for the picking. But in 1950s America, a cloud of anti-Communist fervour sends the family to England, where Janie must start a new school mid-year in a new country, where students wear uniforms, study Latin and maths, and even her hair is noticeably “American.” She finds a friend in Benjamin, the son of an apothecary (a pharmacist, her Dad explains). In no time at all the two find themselves caught in a dangerous adventure involving spies, secrets, bombs and magic. Along the way, Meloy’s weaves themes of trust, family, patriotism and war, power and weapons proliferation throughout what is, overtly at least, a simple plot of good against evil, children against power-hungry adults. Meloy handles the challenge with a skilful hand, keeping the action moving quickly while raising deep questions for young readers to ponder. An award-winning author for adults delving for the first time in youth fiction, Meloy avoids a too-tidy ending but still provides younger readers with a satisfying conclusion. I also enjoyed her descriptions of life under McCarthyism and of an England that was just foreign enough to generate empathy for Janie’s discomfort.
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About Michelle Mallette
I'm just trying to keep track of the books I've read - what I liked and what isn't worth re-reading. My work as a librarian has included youth services so you'll find a wide range of interests from picture books and teen dystopia to adult sci-fi, road trip novels, and nonfiction. Comments and communication is always welcome.

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