Monday, August 1, 2016

The Candymakers and the Great Chocolate Chase by Wendy Mass, 2016

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It has been a few months since the Harmonicandy was chosen as the winner of the nationwide candymaking contest. Forever changed by the experience, Logan, Miles, Philip, and Daisy have returned to their regular lives. But when presented with the chance to go on tour to promote the new candy, they each have very different reasons for hitting the road.
The stakes are a lot higher than they thought, however, and a decades-old secret is revealed. In this action-packed adventure, the four friends embark on a journey full of hidden treasures, imaginary worlds, rivers of light, a map of awe, a sky of many colors, and one very small cat who thinks he's a dog.
And candy.
LOTS and LOTS of candy.
They've already learned to trust one another. Now they'll have to trust themselves in order to face what lies ahead and save what really matters.

(544 pages)

When I asked my ten-year-old brother if he liked The Great Chocolate Chase, he said "Yes, but it was kind of annoying how people kept getting important information and then keeping it secret for like forever." When I pressed him and asked how he thought it compared to the first book - which is one of his all-time favorite novels, one of a very elite group of books he's re-read - he surprised me by saying that he thought this book was every bit as good as its predecessor. I know he definitely chewed it over even when he wasn't reading: he kept wandering up to meat random times and asking me whether I'd seen such-and-such coming or if I knew how this-or-that tied in with the first book. It was very cute (and slightly annoying), and definitely heartening to see how perfectly Candymakers 2 captured and held my brother's attention.

As for me, I definitely enjoyed it. There are few things I love to do more than curl up with a big fat new book by one of my favorite authors, and so I really loved the opportunity to do that with Candymakers 2. I totally agree with my brother, though, that it was pretty frustrating when the characters teased huge reveals and then waited entire chapters to reveal what they knew. The worst of these was when Daisy did a DNA test in the RV, and then announced that it would take like twenty hours and the data would only be processed while the vehicle was actively in motion. I mean, seriously?

But that's a minor quibble. I really did love reading this extension of one of my very favorite MG novels, and Mass did a wonderful job of instilling almost all of the same magic and excitement from the first book into the second; she has a skill few other authors do, of being able to write sequels that don't feel watered-down. This one may feel a bit stretched, like she threw in some extra random plot points just for length, but that's entirely excusable because all of the side plots are really interesting. It's actually the main plot, one of the big reveals that comes toward the end, that had me scratching my head and struggling to keep suspending my disbelief. I can't talk much about it, though, so suffice it to say there's some very fantasy-esque sci-fi.

If you're reading this review, you've either never read the first Candymakers or you have read it and are deciding whether to read this book. If you're the former, just go read The Candymakers. Like, right now. You can thank me later. If you're the latter, be assured that you can safely read and enjoy The Great Chocolate Chase; it adds to, rather than takes away from, the charm of the first book. And, as an added bonus, it has cameos with characters from three other Wendy Mass books. I only caught two of them, both of which were incorporated in natural (but also really fun) ways. If you read the book, try to catch all three so you can tell me which one I missed!

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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