By: Maile Meloy
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Publication Date: October 2011
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: September 27, 2011
Janie Scott was seven-years-old when Japan surrendered and the evil forces were finally destroyed. Living in Los Angeles, California had always been fun for Janie. Her parents were much beloved writers’ for television shows, and Janie enjoyed a life full of entertainment, friends, and fun. Nothing seemed negative in Janie’s world until a black sedan began following Janie home from school. She was fourteen by then and was more than a little ‘creeped out’ by the men in dark suits with sunglasses who seemed to be watching her every move.
Very soon, her parents told her that they were on their way to London; not to pack anything, because they had to get out of the U.S. as quickly as possible. It turns out her parents have been placed on some kind of ‘list.’
When Janie arrives at her new home she is completely confused. She went from a nice house to a small, desolate flat; from looking out her window at the sunshine of California to starring at the bomb-addled streets of London that have not been mended since the Germans had hit full-force. Janie finds herself in an odd world at school, as well. Going from her true, lifelong friends, to a cold castle called St. Beden’s that focuses on Latin and other subjects Janie hasn’t even begun to study is not easy. Some of the kids are a bit ‘hoity-toity’ while others are…unusually unique.
Right down the road from Janie’s new desolate home is the apothecary - where a wonderfully kind man whose son, Benjamin, is the ‘unique’ young man that Janie met at school. Benjamin is fun and wants to be a secret spy one day when he grows up. In fact, he is already in the midst of spying on people, which is what brings Janie and Benjamin into a dark world of secrets, lies, and spies.
Benjamin’s kind father is suddenly kidnapped, and Benjamin and Janie have only one way of helping him to return; they must figure out the text in a book called the Pharmacopoeia that has urgent information the Russian spies will kill for.
This amazingly dangerous race becomes part treasure-hunt, part Indiana Jones, as Janie and Benjamin get locked inside a world of everything from Communists, to ‘closer’ people in their lives who seem to know far more than they are letting on to the tough, never-say-die teens. The locations are rich in detail, and the story is so thrilling that a reader will not be able to ‘step away’ from these amazing teens' adventure! And on another note, the illustrations accompanying the chapter headings are truly works of art.
Quill Says: This is a true work of ‘fantastic fiction,’ that does the YA market proud. We need MORE of these stories!