by Wendy Mass
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars
I am a huge Wendy Mass fan, but was surprised to re-read my review and remember that I was quite unimpressed (3 out of 5 stars) by the original Candymakers book. The four friends return for this adventure, which takes them on the road in search of mysterious, magical, blue cocoa beans. The beginning of the story rotates in perspective among the four; the middle section is told as one story but omniscient, jumping from person to person even within the same paragraph; and the end section is separate again. All in all, this made for some confusion – particularly in the beginning, when you experience the same day through each person’s eyes but jumping over the events that have already happened. For example, Logan tells how he came to be in possession of a box of his grandfather’s old letters and notebooks, and how he told Miles about it. Then during Miles’ account of the day, we skip right over that and go to him going through the box. It left me confused at points about what exactly the new narrator was reacting to, but then again, I have the attention span of a flea. Or a ten-year-old (which, it should be noted, is Mass’s target audience). This jumping around is the reason for the 1 star deduction – well, that and the fact that there were SO many threads to the story that I had a lot of trouble keeping them straight. Even now, I’m not sure that they were all wrapped up, but maybe that’s on purpose and there is a third book in the works. Who knows!
What I did like was the imagination in the story, and also that some of Mass’s other characters came together. Mia and her family from A Mango-Shaped Space, the eponymous Jeremy Fink, and the crew from Every Soul a Star all pop in at various points, and then are also together at the end. Even the group from Willow Falls gets a shout out. It was really nice to see them all again! There was a plot line of secret relatives coming out of the woodwork, about which I feel a bit wishy-washy. Having more than one felt contrived, and there were THREE to make seem realistic. I did like Daisy and AJ’s tricked-out RV and the vid coms, and also the eventual revelation of the origin of the magic beans / Paradise. The closing scene of the book has an unnamed (but male) character planting a magic bean in the tropical room at the factory, and I did not like that we don’t know who that was, only that it wasn’t Daisy.
One final note: There is much referring to things that happened in the first book, but just vaguely enough that I wasn’t sure exactly what had gone down. Definitely read them in close succession, or give the first one a re-read before picking this one up!