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The Apothecary

(The Apothecary #1)

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  12,633 ratings  ·  1,612 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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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
Sep 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Steph Su
May 02, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: problematic
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
Dec 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
I really liked this middle grade adventure story. The writing style is very good and story is promising enough. Its actual audiences are young adults but I think anybody who likes magic and adventure can enjoy this book.

It’s 1952 and Janie is a 14-years-old American girl living with her parents in California. As her parents become suspected as “Communists”, they decide to move to London and work for BBC. Janie doesn’t like this change in her life and starts her new school skeptically. She meets
Jan 01, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Dec 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
When literary writers shift gears into writing for young adults the enterprise is risky. Will they overload the narrative with complexities of language or ambiguities of perspective that swamp the action? Will they create central characters that are believably complex children or adolescents? In Maile Meloy's case the payoff was worth the risk, though any reader of her previous works would expect this to be the case. She is a writer of deceptive simplicity whose tales are full of details that ar ...more
Jun 17, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: mbta
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Terri Lynn
Oct 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I wish I could give this 10 stars. I loved this writer's style and story immensely. It's labeled for young adults but forget that- it is as delightful for adults of all ages as for teens. Set in 1952 Los Angeles and London, you'll love Jane, Benjamin, Pip, the Apothecary and maybe even Sarah! At the time of the Communist witch hunts in the USA, two screenwriters move to London with their daughter to write for the BBC to avoid being arrested as Communist sympathizers only for their daughter to ge ...more
Eva Mitnick
Oct 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: children, fantasy
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
Rhiannon Ryder
Aug 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 25, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: ya, fantasy
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
Sep 05, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: reviewed, older
Because I have been watching Fullmetal Alchemist I have been trying to find some good books that include alchemy. So I picked up the Apothecary which said included some alchemic like action. After reading it found that the book was geared towards younger readers. The story also takes place around the cold war and the races to build atomic bombs. Other than that there was really no historical element that I found. I would say the alchemic magic was interesting and was the only thing that kept me ...more
Matthew Salesses
Dec 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
Fabulous read. Written for the young, enjoyable at any age. Please read my full review here: ...more
Sep 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
In the book, The Apothecary by Maile Meloy, 14 years old Janie Scott moved to London from Los Angles and met the apothecary and his son Benjamin. One day, the apothecary was kidnapped by the Soviet and he gave Benjamin his ancient book the Pharmacopoeia and told him to protect it from the people who want to take it. Benjamin and Janie used the magic from the book and found the apothecary, but all of them are chased by the Soviet because the apothecary is trying to stop a powerful bomb from the S ...more
Tina Hoggatt
Jan 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Abria Mattina
Jul 24, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: arc
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
Lisa Nocita
Jun 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 Na
Sep 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 28, 2011 rated it liked it
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
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
Sep 23, 2013 rated it liked it
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
John Kim
Jan 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Great book with a lively and interesting plot! The plot is very unique, having fantastical materials and plots (such as magic that the apothecary makes) in the real world. Additionally, there are twists in the plot that always excite the readers to keep reading on! I enjoyed this book and I recommend it to readers who both like fantasy and realistic fiction. Oh, and I never realized this was a series! I must read the next book :-D
Fuzzball Baggins
Jul 15, 2019 rated it did not like it
The ending was infuriating and gives a terrible message to the people reading the book. The protagonist's boyfriend manipulated her, decided that he knows what's good for her better than she does and forces her to give up stuff she doesn't want to give up for her 'safety' (because as a female she must be in need of compulsory protection, right?). He also steals and reads her private diary without her permission, and expects her to love him unconditionally and wait for him no matter what. But he ...more
Nov 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Bryan, Stacey, Haley, Cassidy, Gabrielle, Jenny
Shelves: england, library, london
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 Pharmacopoeia, in order to find him, all while keeping it out of the hands of their enemies—Russian spies in possession of nucle ...more
I loved this! Another review described it as a magical Cold War spy novel and weird as that sounds, it's a good description of this book. It mostly takes place in 1950s London and the historical details are very well done. I loved the characters, especially Janie (the interrogation scene at the police station was downright awesome)(the bird parts were also awesome) and I loved the way Meloy wove magic into the story. The ending was a little rushed and the book makes a point to say that the bombi ...more
Oct 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Apothecary is a fast-moving book that is full of excitement and danger, with unexpected turns everywhere. If you are the kind of person that doesn't like dragged-out beginnings, then this book will definitely work for you. Janie is just a normal girl living in California, when her life is thrown out of orbit. In the next couple weeks, her whole life takes a turn when she meets Benjamin Burrows and his father, the Apothecary. ...more
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Maile Meloy is the author of the novels Liars and Saints and A Family Daughter, the story collections Half in Love and Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It (named one of the Ten Best Books of the Year by the New York Times Book Review), and the award-winning Apothecary trilogy for young readers. She has received the PEN/Malamud Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship, and was chosen as one of Granta’s Be ...more

Other books in the series

The Apothecary (3 books)
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