A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Apprentices, sequel to Maile Meloy's outstanding young-reader debut, The Apothecary, is a fascinating brew of fantasy, history, teen romance, and life-and-death adventure. In 1954, two years after the events of the first book, Janie Scott and Benjamin Burrows, son of the mysterious Apothecary, are now 16 and continents apart, trying to reconnect. As with The Apothecary, much of the plot involves efforts to keep the atomic bomb from falling into bad hands, with attendant ethical complexities and character development. One character's father is cheating on her mother with his secretary; different cultural and family expectations cause trouble as well as mutual enlightenment. Some heroic characters as well as villains meet a violent death, while others are kidnapped, imprisoned, and endangered. Wartime atrocities and violence, including torture and the massacre of a character's family, are presented, often in flashback, in non-graphic ways that still make clear the full horror.
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What's the story?
Two years after the events of The Apothecary, Janie Scott, now 16, is back in the USA, in an East Coast boarding school and working on an interesting chemistry experiment; her English friend and first love, Benjamin Burrows, meanwhile, is somewhere in Southeast Asia with his father the Apothercary, trying to help the locals survive in a war-torn region, and the other members of their adventurous band are scattered around the world. When Janie is endangered and kidnapped, their paths converge; once again the Apothecary, THE APPRENTICES, and their friends must work quickly and cleverly to save the world.
Is it any good?
Some Apothecary fans may be disappointed at the relatively brief (or sometimes non-) appearances of favorite secondary characters, but the current cast and their interactions are deftly handled. The Apprentices will make a lot more sense to those who've already read The Apothecary, as many characters (and their issues) return from that story. The fast-moving plot has characters whisked from one side of the world to the other as new, sinister villains threaten the world and our heroes; Ian Schoenherr's illustrations add vivid appeal. The story brings a wealth (which might border on overload if it weren't so intriguing) of anthropological field reports, mid-20th-century history and political issues, ethical dilemmas, and magic -- as well as the social difficulties of high school. A third volume is in the works to resolve some of the pending cliffhangers.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how history and fantasy come together in The Apprentices. Do you think it works? What other books you've read or movies you've seen deal with the Cold War?
How have Janie, Benjamin, and the other characters grown and changed in the two years since we last saw them?
What are some of the ethical choices that confront the characters? Do you agree or disagree with their decisions?
- Author: Maile Meloy
- Illustrator: Ian Schoenherr
- Genre: Adventure
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models, High School, History, Science and Nature
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
- Publication date: June 4, 2013
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 10 - 17
- Number of pages: 432
- Available on: Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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