Friday, April 24, 2015

Graceful by Wendy Mass, 2015

Stop right there! Don't go any further unless you've read the other four books in the Willow Falls series. I've done my best to avoid spoilers, but when you're reviewing the fifth book in a series you're bound to ruin something from the earlier books. Click the links to go to my reviews of the firstsecondthird, and fourth books in the series. And if you read on and spoil the entire series for yourself? Well, don't say I didn't warn you.

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An exciting new story in the bestselling Willow Falls series from Wendy Mass!
Angelina D'Angelo has left town to see the world. It's now Grace's turn to use her magic to protect the people of Willow Falls, and she is up to the challenge. This is her destiny, after all. But destiny is a funny thing-it doesn't always behave the way you'd expect it to.
Mysterious postcards from Angelina begin showing up in the mail, Grace's parents are freaking out with worry, and something BIG is coming to town that will affect everybody who lives there. But all Grace is powerful enough to do is turn leftover meatloaf into pizza.

Fortunately, she's not alone. She has Team Grace on her side! Amanda, Leo, Rory, Tara, David, and Connor know a thing or two about magic and how it works. But none of them are prepared for what's coming, and none of them know how to stop it. Life in Willow Falls is about to change forever.
(272 pages)

Every Willow Falls book is told in first person present tense from the main character's POV, and Graceful is no exception. This time around it's Grace, learning to deal with her new magical abilities, who takes center stage. However, in this book Mass also adds snippets of narration from the other characters: there are diary entries by Amanda, letters from Tara to her pen pal/friend Julie, texts to and from Rory (who finally got a real phone!), poems written by Leo, inventor's notes from Connor, and more. I really like how Mass did that because it keeps the narration focused equally on all of the many characters. Otherwise she would've had to include long pages of second-hand descriptions as characters waited in line to tell Grace everything important that happened to them since the last time they talked to her. And that would not be fun.

The things that I expected to feel fake/annoying (like the middle school couples popping up every time I turn around) turned out to be perfectly fine, and actually pretty enjoyable. I think a large part of this success is the more disjointed technique of using all the different mediums to tell the story, because it dilutes the effect of having so many people running around with different things on their mind. Learning about the magic of Willow Falls was also really interesting - Mass does a good job of explaining it without sucking out all of the mystery and wonder.

Despite how much I did enjoy it, Graceful is not a perfect book. For one thing, I disagree with Grace's decision in regards to her parents. Just because they're stressed about your magical powers, does not mean you should use said abilities to make your parents forget about them! I'm not saying whether Grace succeeds in inflicting amnesia on her parents; it's the fact that this is treated like such a great idea by everyone involved that slightly annoys me. Surely someone would have pointed out that it wasn't really the ten-year-old's place to wipe her parents' memories? Another quibble is that the book can feel a bit disjointed. This wasn't a big deal for me, because I don't know of any other way for a story with that many characters to be told, but I know some might find it annoying. Also, did I mention there are three middle school couples? Yes, that's three. As in 3. As in two more than one.

To be fair, though, they're not just a bunch of random couples off the street; they're our couples, the ones we've watched from the very beginning, the ones we've rooted for and laughed at with and cried over. So I can't really fret too much about how many of them there are, because just in this one series, it doesn't really matter. I love them all with a passion that makes chapter fifteen particularly amazing for me - oh, you want to know what happens in chapter fifteen? I'm sorry, but you'll have to read Graceful and find out for yourself because I just can't bring myself to spoil it for you.

Bottom line: I love this book. A lot. It's the perfect ending to the series, and now that I've read it I can't imagine the series being complete without it. Is Graceful a standalone? Never! Is it the perfect close to an amazing series? Absolutely! So please take the time to read just one more Willow Falls book. But definitely make sure to re-read the other books before you delve into this one: trust me, Graceful is that much better if you understand all the references to the earlier books. And by "better," I mean "funnier." This book is hilarious!

Disclaimer: I received a free ARC from Scholastic Press in exchange for an honest review.

2 comments:

  1. What do you think the theme/message of this is?

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    1. Hmm, I'm not exactly sure. Maybe it's about making mature decisions and accepting the chips you're given? I'd have to think about that a lot more, but those are the major themes that jump out at me. It's such a disjointed book, because of all the main characters, so it's hard to pinpoint the theme/message very well. I hope I helped, though!

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