A book’s characters flee fictional tyranny in the real world.
An aging writer by the name of Gertrude Winters wrote a story in which Gracie’s family members were the main characters, living in a land called Bondoff. When Gracie was a baby, her mother fled its evil queen with her, magically escaping the pages of the story and hiding in the real, modern-day world. Now 12, Gracie doesn’t remember and her mother refuses to tell her all of the details of their mysterious origins. Disobeying her mother, Gracie goes to a Gertrude Winters reading to learn more about her family’s story. When Gertrude signs the magic parchment Gracie’s mom used to escape the book and suddenly disappears before Gracie’s eyes, evil Queen Cassandra somehow enters the real world and kidnaps Gracie’s mother, along with the parents of her childhood friend Walter, who are also from Bondoff—and naturally, Gracie and Walter jump back into Bondoff in pursuit. Though the book begins with an intriguing premise, the story loses its potency as Gilboy stalls with the identity of Gracie’s father, dropping enough obvious hints that the reveal lands flat for readers, if not for Gracie. This tendency to predictability arises several times, along with repetitive banter that slows the pace of the story until Gracie makes an unexpected and counterintuitive decision. The book assumes a white default.
Missing details leave this metafictive fantasy feeling disjointed rather than magical. (Fantasy. 10-12)