Alice was an odd girl, even for Ferenwood, where the sun occasionally rained and the colors were brighter than usual and magic was as common as a frowning parent.
In a world saturated in color, where magic is common place and everyone has a special magical talent, Alice Alexis Queensmeadow stands out as peculiar, for lacking both color and magic. Skin and hair the white of milk, the only color she possesses is a golden honey hue to her eyes. At twelve years old, Alice feels that the only person who accepts her for herself is her father. A father that has been missing for three years.
Alice’s world is turned upside down when Oliver Newbanks informs her that he needs her help and in return he’ll help Alice get her father back. At the age of twelve, children in Ferenwood participate in the Surrender to offer up their magical talent. The town elders assess each child to then be assigned a task to perform for the community. Due to his talent of persuasion, Oliver has been tasked with finding Mr. Queensmeadow, and he can’t do it alone. To save her father Alice must leave her home and travel through Furthermore, a land she thought of as mythical, with a boy who once called her the ugliest girl in the world for her lack of color.
What follows is a highly imaginative journey through a land of over a hundred villages, each with their own set of rules and all out to snare the unaware traveler. For the people of Furthermore are hungry for magic found outside it’s boundaries. From the town of Slumber that only comes alive when the sun is sleeping, to the two dimensional village of the paper fox, wonder and fright is around every corner. When traveling in Furthermore you must always have a ruler to measure how much time you have spent, for time is strictly tracked to make sure you haven’t used more than your allotment. Violations of village rules, time thievery, and other offenses can find you arrested or worse. Alice and Oliver are constantly on their toes trying to stay ahead of the traps Furthermore places for the unwary.
Alice was so tired and so full of fears and worries that she could almost understand what it was like to be areal grown-up.
Along the way Alice and Oliver learn some important life lessons and grow into new maturity by the story’s end. They have a typical arc of: intensely disliking one another, coming to recognize good qualities in each other, having a heart to heart where they each learn each other’s deep secrets, and in the end come to genuinely care for each other.
And in the end, Alice learns
that being different would always be difficult; she knew that there was no magic that would erase narrow-mindedness or iron out the inequities in life. But Alice was also beginning to learn that life was never lived in absolutes. People would both love her and rebuff her; they would show both kindness and prejudice. The simple truth was that Alice would always be different – but to be different was extraordinary, and to extraordinary was an adventure. It no longer mattered how the world saw her; what mattered was how Alice saw herself.
Alice would choose to love herself, different and extraordinary, every day of the week.
This was a book that young me would have devoured and cherished, in part because Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass were favorites growing up and Furthermore reminds me of Wonderland (and I wonder if choosing the name Alice was in homage) but it is very much the creation of Tahereh Mafi. My ten year old demolished it and began wondering aloud about eating tulips and one day requested to be called Alice. I highly recommend it for the imaginative child in your life who longs for magic adventure.