Justin Cavell is worried when his parents don’t return home when they had planned. As he says a prayer for his parents’ safe travel—his dad is flying— his wish is heard on the far-off, magical planet of Spiritainia. There, due to the marriage of a wizard and an angel, an anzard comes to life. After giving herself the name Poofy, the anzard, a fairylike being, accepts a mission to help Justin learn to trust his instincts so he can save his parents. After explaining that she has come to “be with you and make you more you,” Poofy uses her magic to stop time on Earth and, with Justin, enters a magical comic book where he travels the Path of Possibilities through the land of Denial. But soon after their arrival, an evil witch captures Poofy, and Justin begins a quest to rescue her with the help of four animals that serve as his instincts through the realm. Confronted by the witch’s henchmen—a group of boys addicted to cursed drugs provided by the witch—Justin must keep a wary eye on his enemies in order to keep from falling into their traps and eventually save his friend. Throughout his adventures, which are tonally reminiscent of The Phantom Tollbooth, Justin is trained to trust his gut, and eventually, he uses his newfound insight to track down his parents. There’s somewhat of a spiritual feel to the moral, which values intuition over observation and logical thinking, and though the story is intended to be about spiritual growth, there’s very little character development. Justin starts out following the rules, and after only one slip up, he remains steadfast. The other characters—heroes and villains alike—have even less depth. Conroy evocatively draws on earlier adventure works, including his use of a dangerous, Pinocchio-like amusement park, but his prose and characters never quite live up to the examples set by those earlier works.
A children’s fantasy with shallow characters, a questionable moral and a convoluted setting.