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Whichwood Hardcover – November 14, 2017
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★ “In deliciously descriptive prose, the confiding, familiar narrator directly engages the "dear reader" with witty asides, explanatory footnotes, and cautionary warnings as Laylee's woeful tale unfolds.” —Kirkus, starred review
★ “It’s Laylee’s personal transformation that shines brightest, giving Mafi’s singular fantasy an equally unforgettable heroine.” —Booklist, starred review
“Both fresh and classic.” —School Library Journal
“This is a gorgeously told tale, thick with magic both beautiful and deadly, set in a world where colors can save a life, whales serve as transportation, and hordes of insects and walking corpses are the good guys, bringing as much hope as they do terror.” —Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
Praise for New York Times bestseller Furthermore
★ A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2016
★ A Shelf Awareness Best Book of 2016
★ A Chicago Public Library Best Book of 2016
★ Featured on "Late Night with Seth Meyers," NPR, TIME, and Entertainment Weekly
“Brimming with color and magic… [Mafi’s] prose is as fresh and fragrant as the flowers her characters eat, the descriptions so vibrant that at times one can practically smell the words on the page." —New York Times Book Review
★ “A fast-paced, funny, and richly imaginative story that embraces and celebrates individuality.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
★ “Rich, luscious, clever prose.” —Kirkus, starred review
About the Author
Tahereh Mafi is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Shatter Me series and Furthermore. She can usually be found over-caffeinated and stuck in a book. You can find her online just about anywhere at @TaherehMafi or on her website, www.taherehbooks.com.
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Top customer reviews
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I loved the way that Tahereh Mafi wrote Whichwood, loved that she used 4th person to explain a little back story or to answer questions that aren't clear within the character dialogue. I loved that as I read I had Lemony Snicket feelings underneath all the playful and beautiful prose.
I could talk about her writing style and world building for days but that's not really what you are here for however, I don't want to go into too much detail about the story because once you move past the writing details and into the actual story you will find that the story arc itself is very short and difficult to discuss without giving away important elements. So what takes up 360 pages of this book, descriptions. Normally I would hate this, I will say there were times where I wish we could just get to the point but at the same time I was so in love with the words and the way that Tahereh was weaving the story that I didn't want to look away, I didn't want to jump ahead because every little detail was beautiful and poignant.
So I will skip over the details of the story, you know it is a story about a girl who washes the dead and the discovery of new friends and a wonderful moral for any age to learn. What you may not know is that this is a pretty dark book. I would hesitate to let my 9 year old read it, perhaps if I read it to her. I think that my 11 year old would love it but I do worry that it could create vivid and perhaps scary dreams if she read it at bedtime. There is one particular part that I found quite 'skin crawling' and I will say if you or your young reader are extremely sensitive to the idea of bugs you may want to take a deep breath before diving in. This is a book based around the dead, it is not what the story is ultimately about but dead bodies are discussed regularly, there is a moment where a parent is killed. Do I think that means you shouldn't let your upper middle grade readers read it, not at all. I think this is a beautiful story that is so much more than dark and creepy, but you may want to give it a quick read yourself and determine if it is a good fit for your middle grade reader first.
I thoroughly enjoyed the characters in this book. Laylee has had a hard life, she's basically on her own at the age of 13 and has a weight on her shoulders that no child should ever have to bear. I loved her strength and determination. Her compassion for people who have not been compassionate to her in return. I loved her grace and beauty, outside and in. I also adored Benyamin and am hopeful that we will get more from him in future books, his story makes me a bit squeamish but he is much like Laylee and I am curious to see more of him in the future. Alice, I need to go back for her story, she's a wonderful character and Olivier...well, Oliver is a bit of something special I think. I can say in the beginning I thought he was a careless, thoughtless, self-absorbed boy, but in the end I fell head over heels for him and I want to see him in the future. His heart is bigger and more compassionate than I ever could have expected and out of all the characters he moved me the most, maybe it is my romantic heart and maybe it was an ending line in the story that did me in, but he is the guy. He in this story is my Warner. He may be your middle grade readers first book boyfriend!
Speaking of Oliver and Alice, some how I missed reading Furthermore, I think time just got away from me and it got pushed back until it was so deep in my TBR that I just couldn't get to it. Even though I hadn't read Futhermore I was not lost while reading Witherwood, it is a standalone within a series. What it did do is make me want to dig down in that pile bump Furthermore up to the top. I loved that Oliver and Alice make an appearance and though I didn't know there story I wasn't confused, I just want to get to know them better now so as soon as I am done here I am off to start reading all about those two.
This is a wonderful read, with beautiful characters. Whichwood is a magical journey that will have your readers minds spinning with fantastical stories and will introduce them to friendships that go beyond looks, education, race, and beliefs. It will remind them that it is not what is outside of the person but what is inside them that is the most important when finding new friends. I really loved this book even with all of its faults. Tahereh has made me fall in love with another world and I just want more!
I picked up the first book in this series, Furthermore about a year ago, when I went to a book signing by Ransom Riggs. Tahereh Mafi was there too, so glamorous! I thought it only polite to buy her book as well, and I read it with delight.
Whichwood takes place in the world of Furthermore, but in a different magical land. With mesmerizing narration by actor Bronson Pinchot, wonderful characters, and a colorful setting, this book illustrates what it is like for a young teen to be bullied and depressed. It is also a beautiful book that keeps this topic accessible to young readers.
What I Liked:
This story is told through a narrator, so it is critical for the voice of this person to be right, and he is! The narrator for this book is Bronson Pinchot. Yes, that guy from the sitcom, Perfect Strangers, back in the 80's. I am not familiar with any of his other work so it is wonderful to hear how expressive his voice is! He treats the narrator as a full character (although we are never told who he is), and he leads the listener on an experience that is totally thrilling. His work really adds to the book's listening experience. I will definitely seek out more books with his performances in the future.
Laylee is overwhelmed by the duties of being a mordeshoor, a person who prepares the dead so they can move on. She is only 13, yet she has these immense responsibilities, since her mother has died, and her father is consumed by grief. She is treated terribly by the townspeople, and barely has enough food to eat, as well. With such burdens, it is no wonder that she is bitter, angry, and depressed.
While she did feel her job was a burden, I loved how she treated it as a sacred duty. As the novel progresses, we see how Laylee works very hard to tenderly care for the newly dead, even if it is a thankless task.
Alice arrives with Oliver (both characters from Furthermore) to find Laylee and fulfill Alice's task from her Surrender (a ceremony from the other book). But in her attempts to help Laylee, she stumbles. She offers help without really getting to the root of Laylee's problem. Since a part of this book deals with depression, I saw this as an analogy to how some people give a depressed person lame advice such as "Have a positive attitude!", or "You should smile more!" The person thinks they are giving great advice, while in reality it is patronizing. But Alice does learn her lesson. Her heart is always in the right place. It's just that there are no quick and easy fixes to a person's problems.
The ghosts are also wonderful characters in this book. From Laylee's nagging mother, to the more recently deceased ghosts, each is very distinct and fun!
What is not fun is the subject of depression. But the topic is treated in such a way as to be a very natural product of losing a parent, and having challenging circumstances. This book is aimed, after all, at middle grade readers, so I appreciated that the author made this subject accessible to these readers. Adolescent depression is a growing problem in our society, and I hope readers will begin to see the signs and understand when a teen needs help.
The world of Whichwood has it's own rules and it is wonderful to discover them in this book. I also enjoyed the mouth-watering descriptions of the special foods and festivities of Yalda, the Winter Solstice holiday. Many of the details seem inspired by Persian foods, and traditions. Laylee even wears an Hijab!
Much of the book centers on Laylee's job as a Mordeshoor, what it is, and how this fits into the world of Whichwood. These were details show how important Laylee's task is to the town, and how underappreciated she is.