Review Detail

Middle Grade Fiction 127
Realizing your strengths
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
What worked:
Hints are provided early on about the odd circumstances of the new setting when Jake and Willow can see things others cannot. Their new town is solely focused on the Think Tank where the parents work as evidenced by the shabby condition of the K-12 school. It’s hard to believe the school doesn’t have the latest technology with all of the remarkable inventions seen around town. The Think Tank’s secret projects are creating an inter-dimensional problem that may challenge the imaginations of young readers.
The twins find it very difficult to adjust to their new home especially when their teacher targets them for failure. They’re given tests and quizzes over material they’ve never been taught and they’re penalized for asking questions. Their parents go into a daze when the kids try to share concerns about a strange man and their father is especially obsessed with his new project at the Think Tank. Day after day, the twins are subjected to cruel unfairness and the story behind the teacher’s animosity comes out later. A bigger issue arises later as Jake and Willow share their insecurities, especially Jake as he suffers from a low self-image. Much of the plot includes their attempts to help each other realize their strengths and how special they are to others.
This shouldn’t be a spoiler but the twins must complete several challenges to escape captivity. The author develops suspense right away since they’ll be eaten if they fail any of the tasks. Willow thinks she’s figured out a way to trick the witch but things don’t work out as she plans. All of the tests seem impossible but they can be passed. The witch is cocky and confident and she likes to tease and torment her prisoners. It’s fun for readers to contemplate ways to resolve the “impossible” challenges and then be surprised by what the characters think up.
What didn’t work as well:
The narrator uses aside comments inside parentheses but it’s overdone. It feels like the narrator is explaining things directly to readers early in the book but it becomes a distraction. It improves as the plot moves along. Also, the author provides more detail than necessary in some scenes but once again it’s less noticeable later on.
The final verdict:
This book is an exciting start to a new series and it offers new twists to familiar stories. Willow and Jake are changed due to their experiences and readers will anticipate the possibilities as they await the sequel. Overall, I recommend this book to fantasy lovers and those who enjoy fairy tales.
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