Distiller: Hikari Loftus
by Tahereh Mafi
Dutton Books for Young Readers (August 30, 2016)
(fun fact from Tahereh's book signing: Alice is a small nod to Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, although the book is not an Alice retelling. Alice's full name- Alice Queensmeadow is inspired by one of Tahereh's favorite fashion designers, Alexander McQueen. Alice even wears a McQueen inspired dress in the story.)
This story follows young Alice on the eve of her 12th birthday. Alice, who lives in world where value and magic is measured in vibrant color, is nearly devoid of color. White skin, white hair, with the barest hint of gold in her eyes. Her father, the only person who has ever showed care and love towards her, has been missing for three years. Alice, who feels trapped and unloved, is determined to set out on an adventure of her own when Oliver, the most despicable boy she knows, asks her for her help. In exchange, he promises to tell her where her father is. But Oliver is a known liar, and the magic of their world is tricky. Alice must choose if she must follow her heart and find her own adventure, or if she should give up her dreams in exchange for information on her father’s whereabouts.
This is my first Tahereh Mafi book. I’ve only admired her fierce style via internet stalking and considered asking if she and Ransom might want to adopt me and transform me into a stylish writer as well.
Tahereh’s writing style is, simply put, clever, gorgeous and brilliant. I thought the whole book was full of amazing and clever little snips of writing.
AND this book is whimsical and quirky. Like if Willy Wonka and Lewis Carroll had a baby, “Furthermore” would be it.
But here’s the thing. As far as story goes, I felt confused a lot by the quirky way the story was told and often didn’t know if I was following the story correctly. The heavy attention to detail made the story drag in places, and I didn’t ever feel like I had a solid grasp on the world or the characters. I felt like plot and character development were sacrificed for a specific and unique storytelling/writing style. Not to mention that we journey through this novel for 390 pages and everything gets tied up in the last 10.
That being said, after I got into the rhythm of the story, I enjoyed it. I love having this on my shelves for children to read, and I think that there are some excellent messages in the story.
So how do you rate a book like that? It’s confusing, it’s heavy on stylized writing, and I wanted so much more than the ending I got. But I was also enchanted by the writing and the color and the magic. The quirkiness is pretty dang clever in my mind and I loved that it was told by a narrator.
I say you just have to try it and see if you like it. I can see people absolutely obsessed with this book and people absolutely hating it. ha. Either way, it’s one that I want on my own shelves and I think a fun middle-grade read.