A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Stephanie Garber's Caraval is a fantasy-romance about two sisters running away from their abusive father to an enchanted island where, for one week, they're part of an immersive magical game. Readers will spend much time wondering what's real in the game, but a few deaths of characters close to the main character feel very real. Also, a character is slashed with a knife, and another is drugged and kidnapped and almost drowns. Other mature content includes some kissing and innuendo and a teen girl drinking to excess. Besides being an immersive fantasy, this story reminds readers of the courage it takes to stand up to an abuser and get out from under the abuser's power and even the courage it takes to forge your own path.
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What's the story?
In CARAVAL, every year for her whole childhood, Scarlett has sent letters to Master Legend, asking him to come to her small island with his magic performers -- until one year she tells him not to come because she's getting married. Of course, that's the year she gets a letter back, with three tickets enclosed, one for her, one for her impetuous younger sister, Donatella, and one for the fiancé Scarlett has never met. Donatella is ecstatic about the news, and so is the handsome man Scarlett catches her with in the cellar, Julian. Julian has been to Caraval before and has an offer for them: He'll sneak them to the location -- Master Legend's famed private island, Isla de los Suenos -- in exchange for one of the tickets (the sisters have longed to escape their abusive father). Late at night Julian and Donatella drug Scarlett and drag her onto a boat. When she wakes, it's just her and Julian on a rowboat headed for the island, and Donatella's nowhere to be found. Quickly Scarlett discovers Donatella's been kidnapped and that Caraval is really a magical game, a dangerous one if Scarlett doesn't find her sister before the week is out.
Is it any good?
Don't let the magical island setting fool you -- there's nothing laid back about this absorbing tale that's part smoldering forbidden romance, part rescue mission. Yes, it's set on a fantasy island, one readers would probably love to linger on if first-time author Stephanie Garber would let them. Garber doesn't linger on the details of world building -- or even let the characters sit down for a meal (do they ever eat?). Still, the fast pace does have the advantage of keeping readers fully immersed in the mystery as much as the main character, Scarlett. What's real? Who are the performers and who are the other players? Why is Scarlett's sister the one kidnapped, the one tied to the prize? How much danger is she really in?
Caraval is a zip-through read once you hit the halfway point, with more than a few eye-opening surprises at the end.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why the game in Caraval is played at night, instead of during the day. Are the actions of game participants in the end really consequence-free?
As you read the story, did you trust the right people to help Scarlett? Or trust too much? Is it better to be too trusting or too wary of others?
What do you think of the cliffhanger at the end? Will you read more stories in the series?
- Author: Stephanie Garber
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Brothers and Sisters
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Flatiron Books
- Publication date: January 31, 2017
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 17
- Number of pages: 416
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: May 14, 2019
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