Garber, Stephanie Caraval, 416 pgs. Flatiron Books, 2017. $18.99. Language: PG (1 swear; 0 ‘F’); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13
Caraval is a legendary, once-a-year, invitation only performance where the audience is the show. For years Scarlett has written letters to the mastermind behind the event to try and convince him to extend a much coveted invitation to her and her sister, Donatella. Scarlett and Tella live on a small island under the control of their domineering and abusive father and want to experience a small moment of excitement before Scarlett enters into the marriage her father has arranged and Tella is left to fend for herself. When the Caraval invitation arrives, Scarlett, Tella, and a mysterious sailor set out for the show and a chance to win the prize of one wish. Everyone knows that Caraval is a game and nothing that happens there is real. It’s all just a performance. However, when Tella is kidnapped at the beginning and it becomes clear that Scarlett and her sister are the focus of that year’s spectacle, it becomes frighteningly evident that the dangers are genuine and Scarlett could lose her sister forever.
In a sea of books belonging to the genre of fantasy, this book stands out as well written and original. The characters are fully developed, although they do come across as older than their proclaimed teenage years at times. The plot focuses on the darker aspects of the human psyche and delves into family loyalty and love in a way that is more realistic than most books for young adults. The world of Caraval that the author creates is vibrant, clever, and multilayered inviting multiple reads to fully discover all that that world includes. The ending makes a sequel seem likely, but the book could easily stand alone.
MS, HS—ESSENTIAL AEB