by Lesley Livingston
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novel
17-year-old Kelley Winslow doesn’t believe in Faeries. Not unless they’re the kind that you find in a theatre, spouting Shakespeare—the kind that Kelley so desperately wishes she could be: onstage, under lights, with a pair of sparkly wings strapped to her shoulders. But as the understudy in a two-bit, hopelessly off-off-Broadway production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, wishing is probably the closest she’s going to get to becoming a Faerie Queen. At least, that’s what she thinks... In this fun, urban fantasy, Kelley's off-stage life suddenly becomes as complicated as one of Shakespeare’s plot twists when a nighttime trip to Central Park holds more than meets the mortal eye.
(synopsis from Goodreads)
This book has been sitting in my TBR pile for ages. If I'd known how good it was, I would have read it a lot sooner! The author bio says that Lesley Livingston has a master's degree in English. It shows. Unlike many books I've read lately, Wondrous Strange was smooth reading; there were no grammatical oddities or strange "style" choices to trip me up. Thank goodness there are authors out there who are willing to let their story speak for itself, without having to resort to strange (and often annoying) literary devices.
In some ways, Wondrous Strange is a bit of a bildungsroman. Kelley Winslow, a 17-year-old actress living in New York City, is suddenly thrust into the world of Faerie, where she must come to terms with her discoveries about her heritage and her feelings for Sonny Flannery, the young man who works to protect her world. (That's as much as I'm going to say about the plot. Any more, and I'd be giving too much away.)
I quite liked the characters in this book. The human characters are interesting enough, and the creatures from the Otherworld are even more so. Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream is incorporated into the story, as the play that Kelley's theatre troupe is rehearsing, and as a source for various characters that Kelley meets off the stage. (I never liked A Midsummer Night's Dream when I had to read it for school -- actually, I hated it -- but I really liked how it was used here.)
Sonny Flannery is pretty cool, as far as love interests go. I liked the fact that the story was told from alternating points of view, so Sonny isn't just a flat, cardboard cut-out love interest. We get to understand a little bit more about him by seeing things from his perspective; I think the story would have been lacking without this. Granted, he does get a little sappy at times and some of the stuff that came out of his mouth when he was trying to be romantic was a bit... corny. But he was still an appealing and sympathetic character.
And as for Kelley, I thought she was a good main character. She actually has some traits that make her interesting. I'm not sure that I know her as well as I should, after reading a whole book about her. But, since the ending obviously paved the way for a sequel or two, I'm hoping that her character will be developed a little more in subsequent books, where being vague about her won't be as necessary for the purposes of suspense.
I'm a little fed up with all the series and trilogies that are being published for young adults right now... mainly because most of them aren't worth continuing with. This is the first "Book One" I've read in a long time that I liked enough to make me actually look forward to reading the sequel.
Overall: 4 out of 5