Friday, March 19, 2010

Book Review: Forget-Her-Nots by Amy Brecount White

Title: Forget-Her-Nots
Author:  Amy Brecount White
Publisher:  Greenwillow Books
Genre: MG/YA
Hardcover: 384 pages
ISBN:   006167298X
Summary:
When someone leaves three mystery flowers outside her dorm door, Laurel thinks that maybe the Avondale School isn't so awful after all — until her own body starts to freak out. In the middle of her English presentation on the Victorian Language of Flowers, strange words pop into her head, and her body seems to tingle and hum. Impulsively, Laurel gives the love bouquet she made to demonstrate the language to her spinster English teacher. When that teacher unexpectedly and immediately finds romance, Laurel suspects that something — something magical — is up. With her new friend, Kate, she sets out to discover the origins and breadth of her powers by experimenting on herself and others. But she can’t seem to find any living experts in the field of flower powers to guide her. And her bouquets don't always do her bidding, especially when it comes to her own crush, Justin. Rumors about Laurel and her flowers fly across campus, and she's soon besieged by requests from girls — both friends and enemies — who want their lives magically transformed — just in time for prom. (cover image from IndieBound.com & summary from Goodreads.com)

  • Overall rating: 8/10

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Amy Brecount White's debut novel, Forget-Her-Nots, is a sweet contemporary fantasy that will make you want to step outside to smell the flowers and feel their intoxicating power yourself.  This coming-of-age story follows 14-year-old Laurel to an all-girls boarding school where she discovers she has a special talent related to the secret language of flowers.  It is a light and hopeful novel with a unique magical premise.  


What I Liked:
-     The flowers!  Laurel's exploration of the language of flowers made me long to take my daughters outside to drink in the lovely colors and fragrances & prepare some tussie-mussies (bouquets) together.
-     I enjoyed the simplicity of the magic in this book.  The magical language of flowers is an ancient, quiet kind of alchemy.  It does not require wands or pixie dust, but its components are found all around us - in the trees, in our cooking herbs, in our yards and our parks, and in each bouquet of wildflowers picked along a sidewalk.  I liked the straightforward and believable nature of the book's magical elements, and I think readers will find it easy to relate to and accept. 
-       I also enjoyed the historical references the characters uncover to support their growing belief in the magical properties of plants.  In any novel with  fantasy elements, the ways in which supporting characters react to newly-discovered supernatural elements can be just as critical to the plot's success as the protagonist's initial reaction.  I think that aspect of Forget-Her-Nots was handled very nicely.  Characters you would expect to be skeptical were skeptical, and characters who were only interested in the magic as it could be used to their own personal advantage also behaved precisely as you might expect.
 -     Laurel is charmingly normal.  She faces several difficult challenges - dealing with the loss of her mother, adjusting to a new school, and learning a lot about the power of flowers.  But through it all she comes across as a fairly average daughter, friend, and student, which makes her very easy to relate to and like.  Despite her unusual talents and floral experiments, her daily life still revolves around keeping up with very typical responsibilities like schoolwork and soccer practice. 
-     Laurel's grief is moving and realistic, but she doesn't spend the majority of the book moping around and crumbling under the weight of her loss.  It colors her actions and influences her choices, but her personality gravitates toward hopefulness, and so does the overall tone of the book.

What I Wished:
-     A couple of the supporting characters seemed under-developed to me, and I wanted them to have more depth and play larger roles in the story.
-     I wanted a bit more suspense.  I don't mean to imply that Laurel doesn't have mysteries to solve or difficulties to overcome.  She is grieving over the loss of her mother, experimenting with newly discovered abilities, trying to build and maintain friendships at her new school, feeling abandoned by her grandmother, making an attempt to deal with her distant dad, and hoping to capture the attention of her crush.  But no one conflict or challenge feels like it is pulling the plot toward a particularly climactic moment.  In some ways, I liked that there was no 'big bad' (villain) because the challenges Laurel faces are more internal & realistic.  They require her to summon strength of character & heart rather than physical strength or might.  But occasionally, I found myself craving a bit more tension or suspense.

Forget-Her-Nots is a unique contemporary fantasy with a likable heroine.  The lovely floral magic will encourage readers to see flowers in a whole new way and may leave them longing for the old-fashioned charm of using flowers to express themselves.  This book will appeal to some middle grade readers as well as to its target YA audience.  The sweet story and multi-generational nature of Laurel's flowerspeaking talent would make this book a wonderful choice for mother-daughter book clubs.  Fans of relatively innocent YA fantasies, like Aprilynne Pike's Wings or Jaclyn Dolamore's Magic Under Glass, should definitely check out Forget-Her-Nots.  I look forward to reading more from debut author Amy Brecount White.  

You can read the first five chapters Forget-Her-Nots online HERE.
To learn more about Forget-Her-Nots, please visit Amy Brecount White's website, facebook, and twitter.

3 comments:

Medeia Sharif said...

Great review. I've been wanting to read this. I've never read a book about flower power.

Violet said...

Thank you! I hope you will enjoy Forget-Her-Nots. :)

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