14 July 2014

{Book Review} Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver

By: Me My Shelf And I | 14 July 2014 at 7:45 AM | | | | |


Liesl & Po
Author: Lauren Oliver
Release Date: October 4, 2014
Publisher: HarperCollins
Reading Level: Middle Grade
Rating: 3.5 Birds

Liesl lives in a tiny attic bedroom, locked away by her cruel stepmother. Her only friends are the shadows and the mice, until one night a ghost appears from the darkness. It is Po, who comes from the Other Side. Both Liesl and Po are lonely, but together they are less alone.

That same night, an alchemist's apprentice, Will, bungles an important delivery. He accidentally switches a box containing the most powerful magic in the world with one containing something decidedly less remarkable.

Will's mistake has tremendous consequences for Liesl and Po, and it draws the three of them together on an extraordinary journey.

From New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver comes a luminous and magnificent novel that glows with rare magic, ghostly wonders, and a true friendship that lights even the darkest of places.

*I had a very difficult time rating Liesl & Po. On the one hand, I was absolutely pulled into the magic of the story. On the other hand, it lacked a certain amount of depth that, later, left me with nagging questions. Welcome to the dilemma that is rating Liesl & Po.

First, the Wonderful!

This story is undeniably magical, with a dash of melancholy. Liesl, Will, and Po are all tragic characters in their own way and are brought together by a series of mishaps and coincidences. Together they are able to take on the many obstacles along their journey, as well as confront fears, death, loneliness, and the harshness of this world and the next.

The locations, while not given a time or place, are both charming and haunting. And by charming, I mean that even though many residents are starving, the illustrations and atmosphere give it remarkable beauty and make me want to jump into the page. Oliver’s vision of the Other World, where ghosts exist before moving on, has completely dug its way into my mind. It just seems so plausible and logical for ghosts and their place to be the way she describes it.

So, Where’s the Problem?

While reading, the only complaint I had was that the ending felt very abrupt and too tidy. However, this is a middle grade novel, and while I don’t completely excuse it, I can understand the choice. As I let Liesl & Po sit in my mind over the following days, I found the ending just left way too many questions unanswered, many of which could greatly enhance the story, characters, and world building. I think this a strong testament to how captivating the story is that it took me a day or two to really start questioning it. Honestly, these things usually bother me immediately.

As I thought on these questions, I started to see the shallowness of the characters. The villains have very little, if any, motivation for the extent of their cruelty. Hints are given about their backstory, but we never truly get to see the full picture. While Liesl and Will have more backstory, they have weak personalities that just go with the action and circumstances. Po and Bundle, while very intriguing, stay enigmatic mysteries to the end. Mostly, I had difficulty reasoning why certain characters made choices that resulted in this story, like Liesl’s kind father marrying a complete wretch or the Lady Premiere not moving further away from her hated home.

How Many Birds Now?

This brings me back to my dilemma: rating Liesl & Po. Based on my immediate experience and enjoyment while reading, I would give it 4.5 Birds. After further dissection of the story’s elements, I would only give it 3 Birds.

As you can see above, I went somewhere in the middle and gave it a general rating of 3.5 Birds. BUT, I leave it up to you, the potential reader, to decide if you’re more of an in-the-moment reader who will be enthralled, or if you’re a detail-oriented sleuth who will be left wanting more clues to unlocking the mysterious around Liesl & Po.


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