Series: Furthermore by Taherah Mafi
Books: Furthermore (3,5 stars) and Whichwood (3 stars)
Release Date: 2016 / 2017
Tags: Middle Grade / Fairy Tale / Alice in Wonderland / Necromancy / Ghosts / Diversity / POC / Black MC
Alice Alexis Queensmeadow 12 rates three things most important: Mother, who wouldn’t miss her; magic and color, which seem to elude her; and Father, who always loved her. Father disappeared from Ferenwood with only a ruler, almost three years ago. But she will have to travel through the mythical, dangerous land of Furthermore, where down can be up, paper is alive, and left can be both right and very, very wrong. Her only companion is Oliver whose own magic is based in lies and deceit. Alice must first find herself—and hold fast to the magic of love in the face of loss.
Synopsis of Furthermore
Over time I have heard amazing things about Taherah Mafi as an author. Her writing style is apparently the most amazing thing of ever. The Shatter Me books never appealed to me but her two middle grade books for sure did. Unfortunately they didn’t quite live up to the hype.
Furthermore and its companion sequel Whichwood are set in a fairytale type of world where powers exist. In Furthermore we focus on Alice who is completely white in skin tone who goes out to find her father in Furthermore with Oliver. It turns out she has the most amazing power. She just doesn’t realize it herself. In Whichwood we meet Laylee who is a mordeshoor, someone who takes care of the dead so they can rest in peace. But she isn’t respected in Whichwood for her hard work and when she turns ill, her life takes a turn for the worst. Enter Alice and Oliver who are send to help as Alice’s quest.
Both books have fairytale like setting. Furthermore very much is Alice in Wonderland inspired. But with some interesting tweaks of its own. Some of the powers that are there were very unique and interesting. In Whichwood I loved how Laylee had so much respect for dead bodies and the ghosts at such a young age. She of course was forced into this however. But even so she stepped up to the plate big time.
However I cannot quite get passed the writing style. Both books are written by a narrator who very clearly knows the main characters in both books and is recounting their stories. So in a sense we get talked to. Which I think for a middle grade is fine way to approach something so fairytale like. But there are bits and pieces where we get weird chapters of two pages where it just feels like a summary. Or where the narrator goes oh well won’t bother with their conversation. Uhm no I would love to see their conversation and their bonding. Because of this there is so much tell and little show. The narrator voice just grated on me. A bit over dramatic, even for a middle grade.
Moving on to that I have a big problem with the parents and grown-ups in this. They send such a wrong message that all of these things that went wrong were Laylee, Alice and Oliver’s fault and took absolutely no responsibility for any of it. Sure they made some wrong decisions and should be held accountable for that but the bigger mistakes were with the parents that abandoned their child, the city eldest that send in two children without any kind of information and expecting perfection. Or how about the community that let a young 13 year old girl struggle with the dead and not even paying for her service (or kicking her father’s ass right back to her to take care of her). And no, their mistakes and flaws, they aren’t held accountable for. Not really. There is no sorry, no apology from any of them. This is what bothers me the most about these books but especially in Whichwood. Which is a shame because Whichwood in itself is a deliciously dark tale.
Character wise I think that Alice, Oliver, Laylee and Benyamin are well likeable characters. I especially took a liking to Laylee who has to go through so much and who is so responsible. And caring even if she struggles to show that to others. I just wanted to hug her and protect her. Oliver is another interesting addition. When other people learn of his powers they distrust him. I would have loved to have seen more of him with his parents. Trying to rebuild the trust he lost. Alice is headstrong and knows what she wants. Benyamin is the soft hearted boy.
Overall I am a bit disappointed. However I would still easily recommend these towards kids. Especially Whichwood with Laylee. Not only is Laylee a great character, she also has a dark skin as can be seen on the cover. That really isn’t seen that much in middle grade, especially not as the main character. And for that alone Whichwood is so important.