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The Apothecary (The Apothecary #1)

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3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  5,922 ratings  ·  978 reviews
It’s 1952 and the Scott family has just moved from Los Angeles to London. Here, fourteen-year-old Janie meets a mysterious apothecary and his son, Benjamin Burrows—a fascinating boy who’s not afraid to stand up to authority and dreams of becoming a spy. When Benjamin’s father is kidnapped, Janie and Benjamin must uncover the secrets of the apothecary’s sacred book, the Pha...more
Hardcover, 362 pages
Published October 4th 2011 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons (first published August 29th 2011)
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Newbery 2012
24th out of 167 books — 675 voters
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Potential Fantasy Classics
21st out of 201 books — 119 voters


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Community Reviews

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Maja (The Nocturnal Library)
Sweet and entertaining, but not what I expected.

It's the year 1952, and 14-year-old Janie is living a happy, carefree life with her parents in Los Angeles. One day, while walking home from school, she notices a black sedan following her, which causes her parents to panic and make some sudden decisions. Suspected of being communist sympathizers, they feel like they have no choice but to pack everything up and move to London.
Starting school in London is harder than she ever imagined. Janie hates e...more
Catie
Sep 14, 2011 Catie rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Catie by: Thomas Tomato
Janie is a bright, all-American girl living in Los Angeles in the 1950’s. Her world is like a lovely dream, until her parents tell her that they must pack everything and hastily leave the country to avoid being detained and questioned as suspected “communists.” Days later, they arrive in dreary London, still recovering from the aftermath of WWII. Janie is immediately homesick, especially when she attends school for the first time wearing the wrong clothes and feeling left behind in her classes....more
C.V. Sutherland
I loved it. One of my all-time favorite books, because it's just the right blend of romance, fantasy, action and realistic fiction all together. After I finished, I just sat in a sort of daze, because I'd never been that affected by a book regarding emotions, period. It was amazing.
Betsy
I can be a very smug librarian sometimes. It can get me into trouble. Take my reaction to the cover of Maile Meloy's The Apothecary, for instance. Here we have one of the lovelier illustrated book jackets to come out in recent years. Illustrator Ian Schoenherr really put his heart and soul into it. So what was my initial reaction? I picked it up, noticed the American robin on the cover paired with the image below of some buildings raising the British flag and sniffed, "That's not an English robi...more
Steph Su
THE APOTHECARY is the kind of middle-grade historical thriller that younger audiences or readers who are interested more in the actions rather than the thoughts and motivations of characters will enjoy best. I couldn't help feeling like it relied a little too much on old-fashioned attitudes toward WWII-era enemies and allies in its portrayal of foreign characters. It was disconcerting to see Jin Lo, the Chinese chemist, portrayed as a beautiful, poised, elegant, and a little snooty woman who cas...more
Dewitt
THE APOTHECARY
By Maile Meloy; Putnam, 2011

Despite its widely positive reception, I am baffled how Maile Meloy’s fifth book, THE APOTHECARY—her first for Young Adults—could engage a serious writer’s talent, even as a holiday from seriousness. There are investments: in the historical framework of 1952, in the Los Angeles of that time (with McCarthyism and the black list), and the London of that time. The author has done research and invested time and setting with realistic detail. The heroine, fou...more
Rhiannon Ryder
I'm telling you, my BEA shelf might be getting less crowded but it's still full of all sorts of fantastic gems. The Apothecary was one of those books I didn't even have to read the blurb for when I grabbed it at the BEA. That beautiful cover sold me on the spot. To my intense delight the art continues on to the inside, although my copy is missing a lot of it because it was so advanced ,as if I need more excuses than that to buy a finished copy.

The Apothecary is not just another pretty face thoug...more
Eva Mitnick
It's 1952 and 14-year-old Janie's parents have just been blacklisted, which means a move for the whole family from Los Angeles to London. Janie experiences major culture shock - not only is post-war London gray, cold and drab, but also they have to put pennies in a meter just to heat their flat, there is still rationing, and the students at her new school are learning Latin.

Mostly, the students seem fairly snobby, but one boy, Benjamin, appeals to Janie. Intense and defiant, he wants to be a spy...more
Sonia
Dec 01, 2013 Sonia rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: mbta
+95 points for an original story with scientific interest and authentic Cold War detail despite belonging to the overdone YA magic genre. +5 for Southern California. -15 for making the Latin teacher the villain. -50 for a ridiculous Latin error. -50 for letting the otherwise wonderful illustrations be marred by SAME LATIN ERROR. +10 for Chinese character. -30 for describing Chinese character with hair like a "silken rope" and a "kung fu" kick. -15 for gratuitous sequel trolling. Sum: -50.

HEAR YE...more
Matthew Salesses
The story of an American girl who moves to England with her parents during the Cold War, after her parents are suspected as Communists. She meets a boy who wants to be a spy and whose father, the apothecary, has a magic book and is in trouble because of it. When real spies show up looking for the book, the two children set off on the kind of quest you want from a book like this. This time, the quest, the characters, the world-building, the magic, are in top form, so good that this book has set m...more
Tina Hoggatt
The Apothecary by Maile Meloy, a middle grade novel, can be read by all ages for its fine drawing of history along with meditations on family, war, power, freedom and the threat of nuclear weapons. If this seems heavy freight for adolescents be assured that these deeper themes are carried along by adventure, budding romance and magic.

Janie Scott, the daughter of two successful Hollywood writers is wrenched from her comfortable life in 1952 Los Angeles when her parents take a job writing for BBC...more
Minli
The Apothecary is, by all accounts, a book that sounds up my alley. It's 1952, and Jane's parents move their family from Hollywood to London, England in order to escape the Red Scare. Jane enrolls in a school and meets a mysterious apothecary and his son, gets tangled up in magic and adventure and la. Benjamin, the son, really wants to be a spy, but his dad wants nothing more to than for him to follow in his footsteps. But when the apothecary is kidnapped and cryptic, threatening messages are le...more
Lisa Nocita
Jane is uprooted from her California home when her parents, screenwriters, decide to leave the country rather than face the McCarthy era witch hunt for communists and communist sympathizers. They go to London. That Jane is initially dismayed by the idea is an understatement, but soon her new life takes some crazy and unpredictable turns that lead her on a wild adventure filled with spies and alchemy fit for the big screen.


"We were on a nuclear test site with an untested antidote. The Soviet Nav
...more
Vikki VanSickle
The mix of Cold War drama and old-school alchemy is unusual but totally works. The spunk and energy of Meloy’s prose feels very old-fashioned (hence the Nancy Drew comp) and yet her relationships feel modern. Janie is a delightful protagonist, a smart girl who prefers pants to skirts and is doing her best to keep her feelings for her partner in crime hidden. This becomes exceedingly difficult in a particularly memorable scene in which Janie and Benjamin test a truth serum by asking each other wh...more
Jan (lost pages)

Inhalt
Von Amerika ins langweilige England. Eine drastische Veränderung, die Janie überhaupt nicht gefällt. Noch immer erkennt man die Spuren des Zweiten Weltkrieges, der erst vor wenigen Jahren endete. Warum gerade England? Warum gerade diese öde Schule? Warum gerade Benjamin, der Janie in ein waghalsiges Abenteuer entführt?
Benjamin wäre gerne ein Spion, und aus anfänglichem Spiel und Spaß wird bitterer Ernst, als er von seinem Vater, einem Apotheker, ein Buch in die Hand gedrückt bekommt. Die P...more
Laurel
Rounded up. Really a 3.5, I think. The writing is clear and strong, descriptive. The story is inventive. Details are wonderful.

But the age of the protagonist feels confused to me, even for 1952. And the "bad guys" and politics feel flat and simplistic, for a book which has attempted to address such matters. It's as if Meloy intended to get into these issues in a more serious way, but then lost steam (or her initial project was edited into a simpler one). Also, I struggled here, as I do with a lo...more
Mackay
Shoulda known. The NYT review that was instrumental in my reading this waxed all poetic about Meloy's adult fiction and then said something to the effect that the reviewer was worried when commencing this because it was (gasp! o the horror!) fantasy, but Meloy's writing carried it off.

Really? That's what snobbish reviewers think is good fantasy? What do they know if they don't have anything to compare it to?

Some writers of adult fiction can carry off YA with grace and verve. I'm not sure Meloy...more
Riley.p
I really like this book so far it is really good and I like that there are like potions and stuff.
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Michael Kepler
The Apothecary is a very interesting book that has a lot of action. The book has everything from magic to intense chases leading around London’s streets. The story can be a bit confusing because of Maile Meloy throwing some rather complicated science terms into the story.

The story is about Janie Scott, a Los Angeles girl who moves to London with her parents for a job opportunity. Once in London Janie meets an Apothecaries son Benjamin Burrows who goes on to tell Janie that he suspects that her p...more
Rebecca
This is a very well written book with a lot of action and original ideas ... but I didn't like it. Half way through I just wanted to get to the end so I could be done with it.

Set in post war London, 14 year old Janie Scott moves across the ocean with her parents to escape being labeled communists. There they met an Apothecary who likes to brew potions. His uptight son, Benjamin, goes to the same school as Janie. Janie and Benjamin develop a somewhat interesting relationship made stronger by all...more
Crys (The Hodgenator)
Loved every moment of this novel. The plot was inventive, and the reader was magnificent.

Fourteen-year-old Janie and her parents move from L.A. to London in 1952 to escape questions of communism. In London her parents will write for a new Robin Hood series, and Janie will continue being fourteen - just with a new school and new friends.

Instead, Janie becomes friends with Benjamin Burrows whose only dream in life is to become a spy. He has already picked out his first suspected Russian "spy" to w...more
Stephen
Note: I keep changing my rating between a two and a three. I wish there were half stars. This book didn't bore me, but it did disappoint me, because it had great promise.

I like this genre of books, and the main characters were interesting. I also thought that making it a historical fiction book was interesting, but overall I thought the execution was poor. The explanation of how the Apothecary worked was not very convincing. Either have a scientific explanation or a magical one; instead this boo...more
Abria Mattina
I received an ARE of The Apothecary by Maile Meloy during a visit to the Penguin offices in New York. At first I put off reading it because I didn't feel tugged by the jacket synopsis, but once I started reading I couldn't put it down. This was one of those rare books that made me say, "Just one more chapter before bed...Okay, one more...Last one, I swear."

What I liked about The Apothecary from the very beginning was the voice of first person narrator Janie Scott. She’s witty, intelligent, and...more
Christina (A Reader of Fictions)
Originally posted here.

I'd noticed The Apothecary, but it wasn't particularly on my radar. However, I certainly wasn't going to pass it up when I saw Meloy's short signing line just where I happened to be at BEA. I'm glad I did pick up a copy. The Apothecary is a thoroughly fun and silly middle grade novel, and even has some history lessons.

I straight up love history, so I was all about the Cold War aspects of the story. Spying and atomic bomb testing? Sign me up. This definitely doesn't read li...more
Michele
This is probably my favorite book I have read this summer. What did I like about it? It is different. I received it as a gift, and while I had heard of it, I really didn't know that much about it. I just started reading. I was curious about the cover illustrations, but I didn't read any reviews or summaries. The first thing I noticed, and one of the things I liked best about this book, is its setting. It takes place in 1952, in the insanity of the early Cold War, particularly the anti-Communist...more
Jason
Not many authors of literary fiction take a turn at writing young adult novels. Maile Meloy's Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It was one of the best short story collections I've read (I haven't read either of her previous novels). Now she has written The Apothecary, an adventure novel about a trio of fourteen year-olds who fall into a magical world of an apothecary and the ancient art/science/magic of alchemy. It is very good, although falls short of outstanding.

The most interesting aspect of t...more
Erin
The line on the cover of this book truly sums it up: "A dose of magic can save the world." A delightful story about friendship and love, The Apothecary takes our world and shows it to us through the veil of just a dose of magic.

Janie Scott has to move to England with her parents in 1952 because they've been accused of being Communists. She hates leaving her warm and sunny California home behind, and London is dreary and still shell-shocked from WWII. But a ray of hope shines on her when she meet...more
Shaheen
The Apothecary took me by surprise from the very first page. Masterfully crafted, beautifully illustrated, the book takes on an incredible journey with Janie and Benjamin, fourteen year old kids who become embroiled deadly plot involving espionage and the treat of atomic war in the Cold War. It is an unexpectedly delightful read, tackling serious issues such as family, war, loyalty and duty in a new and vivid context.

"My memories of what happened to me in 1952, when I moved to London from Los An
...more
Sabrina
It’s 1952. Janie Scott has to move from Hollywood, CA to London, England, with her parents. She’s not thrilled at the prospect. She soon forgets her homesickness when she stumbles upon a mysterious apothecary, his handsome son Benjamin, and a murder. She’s not the only one in danger; an nuclear bomb is being put to the test. The apothecary, along with the oddest assortment of companions, had been working against Russian spies to stop the bomb. Now, it’s up to Janie, Benjamin, and their pal Pip t...more
Susann
Re-read in anticipation of the sequel. Maybe with the second reading I'd give this 4 stars, but I'm letting my original rating stand. It's still a breathless adventure and the romance is an absolute 5 stars. My 11-year-old self would have gobbled it up.

(view spoiler)

06-11-2012:
What a lucky find! I saw this hardcover edition at my local Housing Works...more
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Maile Meloy was born in Helena, Montana, in 1972. A Family Daughter is her third book. Her short stories have been published in The New Yorker and The Paris Review. Her first story collection, Half in Love, received the Rosenthal Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters , the John C. Zacharis Award from Ploughshares, and the PEN/Malamud Award. Her first novel, Liars and Saint...more
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“To be a kid is to be invisible and to listen, and to interpret things that aren't necessarily meant for you to hear--because how else do you find out about the world?” 7 likes
“We have to think of a question that we wouldn't otherwise want to answer.'

He stood over the pot, looking down at the leaves. 'Something like, Who do you fancy?'

'That might work,' I said, even though it was the last question I wanted to answer. But it was impossible, suddenly, to tell a lie.

Benjamin took a deep sniff over the steam and turned to me. 'All right,' he said. 'So who do you fancy?'

I hesitated. 'Fancy means like, right?' I said stalling.

'Of course.'

I gritted my teeth against the answer coming out. but I couldn't stop myself. 'You,' I said helplessly.”
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