BOOK REVIEW: Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver

"And this, really, is the story-within-the-story, because if you do not believe that hearts can bloom suddenly bigger, and that love can open like a flower out of even the hardest places, then I am afraid that for you the world will be long and brown and barren, and you will have trouble finding the light.

But if you do believe, then you already know all about magic."

Lauren Oliver's Liesl & Po is not going to be for everyone. It deals with heavy concepts such as death, murder, disappearances, the afterlife… but intertwines them with magic, and love, and timeless friendship. These are topics that are heavy for adults, let alone younger readers; but Lauren Oliver presents them in a way that is melancholy and beautiful and poetic and, IMO, impossible to put down.

Eleven-year-old Liesl has not seen the light of day for a very, very long time. The reason? Upon her father’s falling ill, her greedy, evil stepmother {what even is a story without an evil stepmother?!} locked her away in the attic, opening the door only long enough for a servant to toss meager meals to the dwindling girl. Her only connection to the outside world a tiny attic window that she rarely glimpses out of. The third day after her father passes, however, things change; for on the third day Liesl has visitors…but not visitors of this world.

Po and Bundle are from the Other Side; interlopers who, out of curiosity, lifted the veil to Liesl’s world, the Living Side. The appearance of Po, a blurry spirit who is neither boy nor girl, and has no recollection of its life on the Living Side; and the also smudgy Bundle, who is neither dog nor cat, serve as a form of hope for the somber Liesl, and quickly become comrades to the lonely yet charming child. But that is not where their motley crew ends, for there is also Will.

Apprentice to an unkind alchemist whom refers to him as Useless more often than not; Will knows Liesl from afar, spotting her by moonlight at her attic window, where she occasionally sits with head bent over her sketchpad. While Will and Liesl have never met face to face; Will has had many imaginary encounters with the orphan, and has hopes to make them a reality. But the circumstances in which his dreams become a reality are quite out of the ordinary.

A collision between Liesl and Will is set on course during a return to the Other Side by Po and Bundle. While there, the two happen upon Liesl’s deceased father; and, after an interesting conversation with the lost man, inform Liesl of his bizarre words, setting the orphan in motion. Liesl now has something to keep her occupied: returning her father’s ashes to her childhood home - the last place he was happy. But as she plans her escape and journey, a mix-up involving the greatest powers in the world and said ashes, bring Liesl and Will together and intertwine their story in a remarkable way.

Liesl is understated yet charming. Though she starts off lithe and ghost-like herself, she has a fiery spirit and determination that will enchant and captivate readers. Will, as her companion, is humorous and kind; and you can’t help but to empathize with his character, and the hand he has been dealt in life. The true stars for me, however, remain Po and Bundle.

There is something about Po that is highly reminiscent of Casper {think 1995 version starring Christina Ricci and Devon Sawa}. He is kind and caring and friendly in the same vein as Casper; yet you feel pain behind his words, and can’t help but to feel your heart break at his lack of memories. His bond with Bundle is so very heartwarming {perhaps a continuation from their time on the Living Side?}; and a reminder of how important the human / animal bond truly is.

Liesl & Po is such a beautiful book to get lost within. I absolutely cannot recommend it more - especially during spooky season! To Lauren Oliver: please continue Po and Bundle’s story – I would love to learn more about their time on the Living Side, and the cause of their untimely end.

Star Rating: ****



ellie said...

Sounds like a great October read! I will definitely look for this one!

Caitlin'nMegan said...

The main character's name is so interesting. Looks like this one has a lot of emotion to propel the story! Thanks so much for the wonderful review!

Briana said...

I just finished my latest book last night so thanks for the recommendation!


Ananka said...

Sounds good :-)

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