Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Release Date: October 4th, 2011
*I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
It’s 1952 and the Scott family has just moved from Los Angeles to London. Here, fourteen-year-old Janie meets a mysterious apothecary and his son, Benjamin Burrows – a fascinating boy who’s not afraid to stand up to authority and dreams of becoming a spy. When Benjamin’s father is kidnapped, Janie and Benjamin must uncover the secrets of the apothecary’s sacred book, the Pharmacopoeia, in order to find him, all while keeping it out of the hands of their enemies – Russian spies in possession of nuclear weapons. Discovering and testing potions they never believed could exist, Janie and Benjamin embark on a dangerous race to save the apothecary and prevent impending disaster.
Together with Ian Schoenherr’s breathtaking illustrations, this is a truly stunning package from cover to cover.
Okay, so it’s not just me. I’ve been watching the reviews on this one over the last couple of days and they keep dropping little by little. Weird way to start a review, I know. But I was just really confused when I finished this book. I was really looking forward to reading it, and it just didn’t live up to my expectations. I feel like I have been a broken record lately with my last five or so reviews, but I am just having a run of bad luck with the books I have been reading lately. The Apothecary was one of my most anticipated reads of the year and I was frustrated when it didn’t do for me what I had hoped it would.
I guess I was looking for a book full of mystery, potions, and intrigue. Look at the cover. Look at the summary! I don’t know what happened exactly, but I found it really boring. Honestly. There were some memorable parts, but for the most part I just wanted it to be over. The characters were flat, the plot and history in the were way too advanced and in-depth for middle-grade readers, and I almost felt like the book was trying too hard. Like it was a book written for adults shoved into a middle-grade package. And then, come to find out that this is the first young-adult book this author has written and I think that makes a lot of sense. There’s no denying that she is a great writer, but perhaps she should stick with what she knows? This book just totally didn’t work for me.
The illustrations were gorgeous. My copy of the book didn’t have all the completed sketches, but the ones that were there were beautiful and really helped to create an atmosphere of mystery around the book, but the story itself was just..flat. The writing was beautiful, but again, way too advanced for a middle-grade reader. I don’t read a ton of middle-grade, but when I compare it to say, Harry Potter and The Emerald Atlas, the topic of this book (nuclear war, cold war, etc.) just doesn’t seem like something kids would know all that much about. I remember in middle school like spending one week on the Cold War and when the unit was over, I still didn’t know anything about it. Totally just my opinion, I know. But it was something I couldn’t help but think about the entire time I was reading the book. Then again, it’s been a long, long time since I have been in middle-school.
I’ve been done with The Apothecary for a couple of days, and there’s not a whole lot that I remember about it. It was severely lacking in character development, and I missed the emotional connection that I usually get when reading again. It was just an event, followed by an event, followed by an event, which I know is how most books really go, but there needs to be more. And there just wasn’t. And if after reading this review you are just as lost as I am, then I guess I accomplished my goal of writing a completely nonsensical review. What else is new?