Diana Wynne Jones–Howl’s Moving Castle

The What: The Witch of the Waste puts a curse on Sophie Hatter, turning her from a young woman into a grandmother overnight. Sophie, unable to tell anyone about the curse, goes in search of the wizard Howl. What she finds in his moving castle surprises her, and shows her that her world–and her capabilities–can be more than she ever imagined possible.

The Good: Oh, swoon. Flawed characters, meaningful and earned friendships, complicated family ties, strong descriptions of place, an ending that unfolded naturally from the events and personalities in the story… this book was like one long happy bath for my brain’s literary pleasure receptors. For some reason, it took me weeks to read it (a book normally lasts two or three nights for me), but what an enjoyable few weeks. I loved, loved, loved Sophie’s attitude. She neither denied the frustrations she faced, nor wallowed in them–she acknowledged them, let herself feel them, and moved on to taking action to do what she could about them. She’s a joy to read about, and a great example for teens who are trying on different worldviews.

The Meh: The whole Martha/Lettie thing left me totally confused. Who was actually where, and where were they each supposed to be? Who was Howl dating? And Michael? I’m happy to believe that the book is clear about it and I’m just not that sharp, but oh man, the headache of trying to figure that out. Maybe if I’d read it in fewer sittings, it wouldn’t have been so hard.

Hand It To: fans of the (fantastic!) movie by Hayao Miyazaki, steampunk readers, fans of the “Mortal Engines” series who wouldn’t mind fewer explosions

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