The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente, illustrated by Ana Juan
September doesn't live a horrible life but she does live a lonely one with her father away fighting a war and her mother working in the factory for the war effort. So when offered a chance to escape to Fairyland for an adventure she gladly hops of out her ordinary life and finds herself on all manner of quests, both simple ones and ones that are tied to the core of Fairyland itself.
This book didn't remind me of a traditional fairy tale so much as it reminded me of Alice in Wonderland, which itself felt a little like a fairy tale and a bit like it's own thing (which is hard to remember considering how it's been remade to death). One feeling I had while reading both of these books was "is this a book for kids or adults?" which I mean as an honest question and not a barb. Both books feature a storyline that feels more like a child's adventure story, filled with quests and fantastical creatures, but I felt like the way some of these ideas were presented (such as the inherent sadness for both changeling children who can never leave Fairyland and those who can never stay) appealed more to the adult reader who wants to think a little more deeply about the story. The book information says that it's intended for readers 10-14 but knowing that it was first published online (ie, you can't join most websites online if you're under 13!) continues to make me wonder, especially since I don't know what (if anything) was changed between the web version and the print version. I do think that the intended 10-14 and adult readers can enjoy the book however, there's enough in the story to entertain all ages.
This was a book I had a tough time getting into at first however, the story felt a little too unconnected. It was throwing tons and tons of setting details at me and which was really more than I felt like I needed, I wanted September to simply get moving on her quest first and then worry about the details. So when September is entering fairyland and there are a ton of things going on at once that scene didn't work for me but the scenes in the bathhouse did since we've already set the plot in motion and pausing for a moment for some details doesn't derail that forward motion, rather it contributes to it. What I ultimately enjoyed the most about this story were the details in it, the fanciful little ideas which made me as interested in fairyland as September was. It's also a rather slender book so once the story gets going even the details don't bog down the story for very long, it's also packed with events so I can see how this book would do really well as a serialized story. There were ultimately only a few things that felt too odd and convenient (I don't think it was ever explained why a key followed September for her full journey) and funny enough I wasn't fond of the illustrations but other than that I really enjoyed this book. I think I will, cautiously, check out other books in the series and hopefully not be too disappointed by them later down the line.