Monday, November 21, 2011

Somebody Mixed My Medicine

Published: October 4th, 2011
The Apothecary
By: Maile Meloy
Putnam Juvenile
ISBN-13: 9780399256271

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.

   It's 1952 and Janie Scott has great parents, an interesting life in L.A. - she's happy.  All of that changes because of The House of Un-American Activities Committee's interest in Janie's parents who are television writers in Hollywood.  They say they're not Communists but the government is having them followed and is ready to arrest them soon.  So the Scotts flee to England to write for a BBC Robin Hood tv show under assumed names.  Janie is miserable to be leaving all she's ever known and not helping matters is the fact that England isn't as fully recovered from the destruction and rationing of the war as America is.  Plus, Janie starts at a grammar school where she is out of place and made fun of by the other kids, especially popular and rich Sarah Jane Pennington.  But the apothecary around the corner from their apartment is kind to her, giving her a potion for homesickness.  She visits him after school one day and becomes involved in intrigue with his son Benjamin Burrows, who goes to her school.  It turns out that Ben's Father is involved in a covert plot to stop the detonation and/or testing of an atomic bomb by the Russians near Norway.  He plans to help three other scientists using a book called the Pharmocopeia that uses science to perform magical feats like invisibility, truth-telling and transforming into a bird.  Will Janie and Benjamin be able to save Benjamin's father after he's kidnapped by rival spies?  What is their Latin teacher Mr. Danby's connection?  Are their classmate Sergei Shiskin and his father friend or foe, and can they trust the juvenile delinquent Pip?  Also, there is romance brewing between Janie and Benjamin.  This book was extremely well-written and it almost read like an autobiography most of the time.  The Cold War and spies in general normally bore the tar out of me, but Maile Meloy kept me at the edge of my seat for the entire book.  For a young adult debut it is very polished and has wonderful characters that are relatable and you can sympathize with easily.  It is a must read for anyone who likes fish-out-of-water, high flying adventure stories.

VERDICT:  5/5  Stars

*No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book is now available in stores and online.*

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