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Readers Advisory: Story Thieves by James Riley

I’m adopting a new review policy: only mentioning books I think merit special notice, rather than trying to review everything I read. This decision is part of a larger New Year’s resolution about my ratios of reading time to writing time, reading time to life time, reading time to professional development/reflection time… Basically it’s a whole thing you don’t want to read about. Anyway, first mention-worthy book of the year!

Aladdin, ISBN-10 1481409190, January 2015

Life is boring when you live in the real world, instead of starring in your own book series. Owen knows that better than anyone, what with the real world’s homework and chores. But everything changes the day Owen sees the impossible happen—his classmate Bethany climb out of a book in the library. It turns out Bethany’s half-fictional and has been searching every book she can find for her missing father, a fictional character. Bethany can’t let anyone else learn her secret, so Owen makes her a deal: All she has to do is take him into a book in Owen’s favorite Kiel Gnomenfoot series, and he’ll never say a word. Besides, visiting the book might help Bethany find her father…Or it might just destroy the Kiel Gnomenfoot series, reveal Bethany’s secret to the entire world, and force Owen to live out Kiel Gnomenfoot’s final (very final) adventure.

Holy Harry Potter, fanfolks! This rib-tickling series opener features a half-fictional heroine who can jump in and out of books, which attracts the attention of naive classmate Owen who uses her power to “fix” the ending of a volume in his favorite series, Harry Potter knockoff (the text says so) Kiel Gnomenfoot. He saves the life of a Dumbledore-like character called the Magister without knowing that the soon-to-be-released last volume would reveal the Magister as a villain. When the Magister escapes into the real world and drags young Kiel Gnomenfoot with him, Owen has to fill in for Kiel while Bethany rounds up the Magister. The Kiel Gnomenfoot story line that follows Owen and Kiel’s fictional cyborg sidekick Charm Mentus might appeal to Potterheads (that’s the correct term, right? it’s what I’m calling us) with its battle between magic and science. However, the most fun part of the story comes from watching Bethany try to contain the fictional characters and elements the Magister unleashes on the real world as well as her interactions with Kiel, who lends a hand and a couple of wands. Kiel, in typical action hero fashion, is brash, egotistical, overly optimistic, and brave to the point of idiocy, but he’s also so charming in a wink-nudge way that the reader has to laugh at him. Bethany is smart, but she’s also a worrier who stays safe in the fictional world through strict adherence to a set of rules (like, stay out of horror books, don’t change anything, et cetera.) Through her partnership with Kiel, she learns to step out of her comfort zone and own her powers, and the ending gives hope that their relationship will continue in the next volume.

Recommend to: Harry Potter fans, fantasy fans, possibly younger fanfic fans might find this funny




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