Sara's Reviews > The Apothecary

The Apothecary by Maile Meloy
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Nov 26, 11

bookshelves: 2011, historical-fiction, young-adult
Read on November 25, 2011

It's 1952, and Janie is happily living in LA until the day she's followed home by strange men in a black car; turns out, her parents are communists and the government is watching them, so they end up fleeing to London, where they can live freely but their day-to-day life is infinitely bleaker, as there are still shortages of so many items. Janie soon makes friends with a boy named Benjamin whose father is the local apothecary. His father is suddenly kidnapped one day, and Janie and Benjamin are thrust into a mystery in which they discover that he's not just a regular apothecary, he's an alchemist and has a book of magic spells that everyone wants to get their hands on.

I thought the characters in here were great. Janie and Benjamin make a great pair and are extremely adventurous together, which is always fun to read about. I liked reading about their attempts to make sense of everything in the book, even trying out spells in there on their own to see how it would turn out and potentially help their situation. Benjamin's goal is to one day become a spy, and all this practice he's done for years definitely shows through in their attempts to find and rescue his father.

The setting gave a nice backdrop to the story, with threats of nuclear weapons and the continued shortages of items from WWII rounding out the way they lived; these details added a lot to the characters and the plot overall. The villains in the story were fun, and although some of the motivations were not crystal clear, it didn't matter to me in the end because the story was so much fun. I loved the blend of magic, history, and mystery! Also, each chapter began with a gorgeous drawing that added extra charm to the book and brought the story to life more vividly. This was a fairly quick read but had a lot of layers and heart, with entertaining characters (even the peripheral ones, like the orphan Pip and the rich girl Sarah!), amusing magic (a truth serum! invisibility! birds!), and great friendships and heart. I definitely enjoyed this.
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