My name is Ardis and I am an avid reader and budding writer. I want to share my love of books with others. I work with kids and am interested in finding and creating books that will ignite the reader in everyone. Contact me at: ardis.atkins@gmail.com

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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Audio Book Review: Whichwood by Tahereh Mafi

Please Note:  I received this audio book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  This did not influence the opinions of my review in any way.  Also I have linked the book cover with Amazon.  If you buy the book through this link, I will get a small fee.

Synopsis (From Goodreads):
A new adventure about a girl who is fated to wash the bodies of the dead in this companion to Furthermore.

Our story begins on a frosty night…

Laylee can barely remember the happier times before her beloved mother died. Before her father, driven by grief, lost his wits (and his way). Before she was left as the sole remaining mordeshoor in the village of Whichwood, destined to spend her days washing the bodies of the dead and preparing their souls for the afterlife. It’s become easy to forget and easier still to ignore the way her hands are stiffening and turning silver, just like her hair, and her own ever-increasing loneliness and fear.

But soon, a pair of familiar strangers appears, and Laylee’s world is turned upside down as she rediscovers color, magic, and the healing power of friendship.

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.



Release Date:  November 14th, 2017

Publisher:  Listening Library

Genre:  Middle-grade Fantasy

Narrator:  Bronson Pinchot

Listening Length:  7 hours, 5 minutes

Page Length:  368 pages

Source:  Publisher

Format:  Audio Book

Recommendation:  This was a charming book that has serious undertones concerning things that affect young teens such as bullying, poverty, and depression.  I loved it.

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2019 Reading Challenge
MsArdychan has read 10 books toward her goal of 120 books.


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