Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger (Aladdin, 2 October 2012)
Summary (from GoodReads): Twelve-year-old Sophie Foster has a secret. She’s a Telepath—someone who hears the thoughts of everyone around her. It’s a talent she’s never known how to explain.
Everything changes the day she meets Fitz, a mysterious boy who appears out of nowhere and also reads minds. She discovers there’s a place she does belong, and that staying with her family will place her in grave danger. In the blink of an eye, Sophie is forced to leave behind everything and start a new life in a place that is vastly different from anything she has ever known.
Sophie has new rules to learn and new skills to master, and not everyone is thrilled that she has come “home.” There are secrets buried deep in Sophie’s memory—secrets about who she really is and why she was hidden among humans—that other people desperately want. Would even kill for.
In this page-turning debut, Shannon Messenger creates a riveting story where one girl must figure out why she is the key to her brand-new world, before the wrong person finds the answer first.
Characters: Sophie is the kind of character who can be too much. She's smarter than average, which I usually find annoying. But here it is okay, because she is thrust into elf school where she is behind. She cries a lot. But a lot of bad things happen to her and she struggles to only cry in private, which makes her feel strong instead of pathetic. And she is selfless--something that often bothers me, because it seems that the problems usually aren't that important and only exist to show the reader how wonderfully selfless the main character is. But Sophie understands the sacrifices she makes. She truly believes it is for the best, the conflict feels real and important, and she struggles with her decision.
All that to say that I LOVED Sophie. She was strong, funny, adorable, and easy to relate to. She really struggled to fit into her new world and my heart went out to her as we experienced each new life-changing event together.
The other characters... Just as awesome and well formed. I don't know how to express my love for them all without making this post unreadably long. I'll try to go quick. The boys: There are three. Fitz is the older boy who finds Sophie and she develops a massive crush on him. I understand his clean cut, hero-type appeal, but... he is kind of bland next to Dex and Keefe. Dex is Sophie's best friend and is a big time trouble maker. He has a crush on Sophie, which is adorable, but he is also an amazing friend to her. If there is to be romance, I'm on his team. The only character who gives him a run for his money is Keefe, the kind of boy who is my particular weakness--an older badboy with a deeper side.
However, all of these crushes are just that: crushes. It's middle grade and there is a bigger story at play. These kids are friends, first. Their feelings are handled naturally as part of the story and come nowhere near to being the main conflict. There is so much more I want to say about the characters, but let me end saying that I loved Sophie's foster parents. They were complex and real. They made mistakes and lead their own lives and watching them struggle with the grief they carried for their own daughter was just as heart wrenching as watching them become attached to Sophie. There were some seriously complex character interactions going on in this book and I loved every one of them.
Plot/Pacing: This book moves along quickly and I was never bored. The world is magical and fascinating. We experience it with Sophie instead of just learning about it and it is the kind of world I would love to be a part of. There is emotional conflict from the very beginning that continued throughout the whole book and added an extra layer to the already complicated and awesome mystery of who Sophie is and what secrets are hidden in her brain. The book is long, but it reads quickly. I read most of it in one sitting and I knew halfway through that it was going to take a place among my favorite books to reread. There is emotional tension and external conflict throughout the whole book that builds up to an action packed end. I won't say more, because I don't want to give anything away!
Moments I Loved: The end. Sigh. Happy sigh. I won't say more, but... it was good.
All the moments that broke my heart (because I'm weird). I especially loved when Sophie heard her mother's thought and she was wishing Sophie could be normal like her sister. Yeah, that made me like Sophie more than anything else could. And there is a moment at the end with Sophie's foster parents. Oh god!
Also, there is a tiny mention of a cake called mallowmelt near the beginning of the book. It sounds delicious and I am determined to make it. It has nothing to do with anything, just a wonderful detail that fleshed out the world, but it clearly made an impression on me!
WTF Moments: The world is SO well built and I loved all the details. Even the one that made me say WTF several times. Elves code their locks with DNA, so to open lockers and doors... you lick the lock. It was such a wild detail, one of many that made the world magical and fun to explore, but it gave me the creeps every time.
Overall: This book is going in my special cabinet with all my Harry Potter and Percy Jackson. It is one of the best middle grade fantasies I've ever read: A magical world, loveable characters, and an intense and emotional conflict. I had high expectations of this book and it still blew me away.
Keeper of the Lost Cities gets a FakeSteph rating of...
**I received a signed Advanced Readers Copy of Keeper of the Lost Cities at BEA. I was in no way compensated for my review and all opinions expressed here are my own. Feel free to check out my full FTC Disclaimer on my About This Blog page.**