Author: Corey Ann Haydu
Publisher: Katherine Teegan Books, 2019
Middle grade fantasy comes in a variety of make believe; from talking cats hiding in bathtubs to space invaders from galaxies far, far away. However, in Eventown, the magic is lurking under the surface in just about everything, even if new resident twins Elodee and Naomi don’t quite know it yet.
When the book begins, it’s clear that Elodee and Naomi, along with their parents, have been under stress for the last half-year, although readers don’t find out why until much, much later. Choosing a “fresh start” over more of the same, they leave most of their possessions, including many favorites, behind as they return to Eventown, a place they once visited before. In Eventown, everything seems better and well, perfect. Elodee’s recipes are near flawless and Naomi rarely needs to practice gymnastics in order to produce a perfect routine (which just so happens to be the same routine as all her teammates). The weather is always sunny, teachers are always kind, and the ice cream…well, it never melts.
After Elodee’s sharing session at the Welcoming Center is interrupted, odd things begin happening. The rose bush they brought from Juniper doesn’t look like all the other rose bushes in town. Weeds begin appearing. And then…it begins to rain.
Elodee, along with new sidekick Veena, make a risky decision to get to the bottom of not just this mystery, but a few other nagging issues that result in quite the discovery. Things aren’t what they appear to be in Eventown.
While I greatly enjoyed the mystery lurking underneath this story, the book also serves as a vehicle in tackling some big topics, like mental illness, suicide, and grief. Concepts about identity and embracing your imperfections also heavily define this book. However, my favorite theme in this book is simple: love.
While the Lively family is portrayed as white, they become friends with an Indian family. Another secondary character has two moms.
Although Amazon lists this book as being well-suited for kids 8-12 or grades 3-7, I think parents of kids on the younger end of this spectrum should be advised of the heavy-hitting topics. It would make a great book to read together. On the flip side, I think this book could be of high interest to lower readers in the upper grades.
This title earned 3 starred reviews (Publishers’ Weekly, School Library Journal, and Kirkus Reviews), but perhaps the best review of this book comes from another esteemed middle grade author, Rebecca Stead:
“A wonderful and inventive story about being a kid in an imperfect world—beautiful, mysterious, and deeply satisfying.”Rebecca Stead
I gave this book a 5 star review on Goodreads.
Read-alikes for this book could include Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson-Haddix. While this book would be considered historical fiction and not fantasy, the element of “things aren’t as they appear to be” is the same, a very good way to hook kids into finishing the book.
Another fantasy title that deals with grief, love, and identity, albeit in a different way, would be Newbery winner When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller. You can see our review on it here.
Do your kids like a preview or book trailer before they commit? Try this one!
Haydu, Corey Ann. Eventown. Katherine Teegan, 2019.