Twelve-year-old Lillian and her best friends, Maisy and Katy, decide to go looking for Lillian’s missing sister, Bluebell. It’s been two years since Bluebell vanished, but for some reason, Lillian feels that her sister is now calling to her. With her friends in tow, she follows her instincts to a local beach. There, they meet Jack, a boy their age, and there’s more to him than meets the eye. Although he initially appears to them in human form, they soon learn that Jack is a magical being, capable of shape-shifting. He transports them to the Monster Realm, a parallel world, where they meet all manner of creatures from myth and legend—some friendly, some viciously evil—as they try to track down the elusive Bluebell. As the girls struggle to survive, with Jack’s help, they hear rumors from various creatures that something is very wrong in the Monster Realm. Lillian recalls long-buried memories of her sister that make her wonder if Bluebell is trying to instigate a war between humans and monsters. When the group finally finds her, it’s just the beginning of an adventure featuring more serious problems and graver dangers, as the conclusion lays the groundwork for a sequel. The seemingly endless perils in the Monster Realm and the mystery of Bluebell’s disappearance help keep the story moving swiftly along. The third-person narration gives readers glimpses inside the heads of all three girls, each of whom has a distinctive personality and a unique approach to solving problems. At times, the characters seem unrealistically self-aware, as when Maisy chastises herself after an encounter with a chimera: “Why do I always act before I think? I always do things without considering the consequences.” The deftly handled action sequences, however, overshadow these occasional heavy-handed touches.
A fast-paced YA novel that transports readers to a world filled with magic and peril.