The Apothecary – By Maile Meloy
Book Review By Melissa Schmidke
I often find myself recommending books to young readers, but the tables turned on me recently when Lorelie (lor-ah- lee), one of my students, thrust a book into my hands and said, “You should read this.” It was a copy of The Apothecary by Maile Meloy.
The Apothecary is a tale of mystery, adventure, magic elixirs, friendship and saving the world. Set in the early 1950s in a world newly coming to terms with nuclear weapons, Janie Scott’s life is suddenly upended when she and her parents must relocate from L.A. to London. The 14-year- old is not thrilled with life across the pond, but is soon drawn into an adventure that will change her life – and possibly the lives of millions across the globe. She and classmate Benjamin Burrows must race against time to rescue his father, the apothecary, and protect a mysterious book, the Pharmacopoeia, that may hold the key to preventing global disaster. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable read for mystery enthusiasts ages 10 and up. Seriously – you don’t have to be a kid to pick this up and have trouble putting it down.
After I’d read The Apothecary and its sequel, The Apprentices, Lorelie and I sat down for a book chat. Here are some of the highlights:
Melissa: “What made you suggest The Apothecary?
Lorelie: “It’s just that I do this sort of thing all the time. I get a book I think is good and I’m, like, ‘Maybe this person should try it.’ You know, it’s just sort of… I do this a lot with my friends. I let them borrow books I think they might like. They give me recommendations. It’s just sort of the way things work.”
M: “How does [Janie] feel about moving to London?”
Lorelie: “I think she feels like it’s a little strange, because she’s been in L.A. most of her life, but she just sort of works with it and it turns it into a really exciting adventure. There are a lot of twists and turns in this story.”
M: “I would agree with you. There are some things I did not expect to happen that were wonderful surprises.”
L: “Like with the Latin teacher?”
M: “Yes! Don’t give it away, but with the Latin teacher for sure.”
L: “Jin Lo might be my favorite character. She has quite a sense of humor.”
M: “She does. How would you describe her humor?”
L: “It’s funny when you think about it, but at first you might think she seems harsh.”
M: “But she’s not… Would you say that when you get to know her character a little bit it feels different?”
L: “Yeah. Like, have you ever read a book where you’re sort of with the main character about everything? Like in Harry Potter, you’re reading it and then you hate Draco Malfoy, but imagine if the story was told from Draco’s point of view. You’d hate Harry Potter!”
M: “You might, because you’d understand Draco’s point of view much better. I wonder what the story would have been like if we’d heard it through Jin Lo’s eyes, through her voice.”
L: “Like imagine if it was told through say an innocent bystander’s point of view.
M: “Right! What would they be able to tell you?”
L: “They turned into birds? [trails off, giggling]
L: “In book two The Apprentices, it sort of just moves a lot faster. It doesn’t give you that much time to consider the events. They just happen.”
M: “It did move pretty fast.”
L: “This one The Apothecary is more of the train just getting started and in The Apprentices it’s moving.”
We agreed that while the second book, The Apprentices, was also a great read The Apothecary had better “small moments,” as Lorelie put it. The recommendation is that you talk to your friends or a local bookseller to get your hands on a copy. Enjoy!
It’s just sort of the way things work.
My thanks to Lorelie for the recommendation and to her parents for giving their permission for her to participate in our book chat. Keep reading and encouraging others to do the same!
Educator and bibliophile Melissa Schmidtke is a licensed K-6 teacher currently leading an after-school program for K-5 students. She believes in reading aloud to children of all ages and in collecting interesting stories. She is loving life in Duluth, Minnesota with her husband and cat.