The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home Book Poster Image
Satisfying finale wraps up Fairyland saga with heart, tears.

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Kids say

age 10+
Based on 2 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

You never know what intriguing piece of lore the narrator's going to throw into the mix. One minute she's reminiscing about geoducks in her childhood home, the next she's on a tear about Agatha Christie. The weapon of choice in one of several duels September faces is Latin conjugations. All of it's presented with such casual exuberance that readers who get the references will be especially tickled, and those who don't will find plenty of interesting stuff to learn.

Positive Messages

A moment of extreme self-sacrifice has a profound effect. Friendship, family, love, and teamwork are strong themes as are creative thinking, keeping your balance, and doing the right thing. Someone's particular skill can come to the rescue at just the right moment. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

While there are outright villains and assorted questionable characters at every turn, our protagonist and her loved ones show many positive qualities -- loyalty, devotion, courage, and creative thinking being high on the list -- and put their particular talents to work to help one another. As Queen, September chooses the title of the Engineer, honoring her mom's and her own tinkering and repair skills. Her instincts for diagnosing and fixing things are crucial to the story. The narrator, who's a strong character herself, is long on brains, off-the-wall humor, wild imagination, chutzpah, and, most of all, a heart as big as the universe as she dispenses such pearls of wisdom as "She didn't like to say things flatly, but sometimes it is the perfect antidote to someone trying to convince you the noose in their hand is a lovely silk ribbon for your hair."

Violence

The story puts characters in many dangers, including mortal combat. Death herself, last seen several volumes ago, makes an appearance. Many returning characters have been raised from the grave or magical prisons for the race, and the penalty for losers is to go back to their previous states. One vanquished villain's remains are made into a throne. A character gradually loses his memory due to being bitten by a bear.

Sex

The series includes a fair amount of gender-bending (e.g., characters with opposite-sex names or job titles) and matter-of-fact acceptance of gay relationships, but there's no sexual content. In Book 1, it's revealed that on at least one possible time ine, September and Saturday have a daughter. Here, they kiss several times, with much intensity and magic, amid many dangers and reality shifts. But make no mistake: Within its own universe, the story is profoundly romantic, as in this speech by a character confronting an adversary:

"We've only just wed. In the Autumn Provinces, in the Worsted Wood. I put a wreath of kelp round her neck, and she painted her name upon my eyelids. She wore green; I wore blue. We danced for three days, my wife and I -- along with a Wyverary, a wombat, a Dodo, a family of trolls, a matchstick girl, a gramophone, a whole gang of shadows, a Yeti and his dog, a talking lamp, Winds of every color, a wairwulf and both his wives. Seventeen versions of me were there, along with her parents and mine and a pooka and Ajax Oddson, the greatest Racemaster who ever lived. We told each other our true names and fell asleep among our friends, covered in moonlight and the silver comfort of the right ending. She is my wife and I am her own and you were not invited. Leave us alone."

Language

In an insult fest, a character says, "Go pick lice off your mother's backside, you saucepan-headed ape!"

Consumerism

The character Aroostook is a Model A Ford.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Many celebrations in Fairyland involve alcoholic drinks, and an adult character reveals that she named Fairyland creatures after the bottles in her parents' liquor cabinet. Some Fairyland characters smoke pipes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Catherynne M. Valente's conclusion to the Fairyland saga maintains the wild imagination, oddball perspective, and deep heart that has set the series apart and made it so popular with kids and critics alike. It also wraps up the various plot threads and relationships in an emotionally satisfying way. Along the way, there are plentiful positive messages about friendship, loyalty, love, family, courage, teamwork, and self-sacrifice. Two central characters exchange several intense kisses; some of the conflicts involve fights to the death -- or at least sending recently resurrected characters back to the grave. One vanquished character's remains are turned into a chair. Note: This is the fifth book in a series with a list of characters that takes up two-and-a-half pages in a helpful list at the beginning. It will make very little sense if you haven't read the other installments.

User Reviews

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Teen, 14 years old Written byocelotgvc August 14, 2016
Teen, 17 years old Written byPortia0623 September 28, 2017

What's the story?

Over the past five years and four volumes, Nebraska girl September and her Fairyland friends -- her beloved, Saturday, and her Wyverary, A-Through-L -- have had many adventures across time and space, alone and together. Through it all there runs an inescapable conflict: September is torn between two worlds, with people she loves in both of them. When she's home, she longs for Fairyland; in Fairyland, she's homesick. As the story opens, September, now 17, has been freed from a long imprisonment in Fairyland, and the three friends are together again. But there's more trouble ahead: The events of Book 4 left September as Queen of Fairyland, and now she has to defend her crown in a race whose rules are mostly a secret and change without warning. If she wins, she gets to stay in Fairyland forever -- but can't go home. If she loses, she goes home and never sees Fairyland again. Just about every character and subplot ever seen in the Fairyland series makes at least a cameo appearance in this epic finale. Meanwhile, in a new development, September's parents and aunt are in Fairyland looking for her.

Is it any good?

Wringing tears from the sternest eye, dispensing offbeat wisdom, and delighting souls at every turn, Catherynne M. Valente brings it all home in the satisfying conclusion of September's adventures. As with previous Fairyland installments, the style and cosmology are lush, imaginative, and wacky, and you quickly realize it's best to surrender to the narrator, who's effortlessly in control however much things may appear to be running off the rails. THE GIRL WHO RACED FAIRYLAND ALL THE WAY HOME wraps the many plot threads up nicely -- and leaves the door open just a bit, because, as the narrator reminds us:

"Endings are rubbish. No such thing. Never has been, never will be. There is only the place where you choose to stop talking. Everything else goes on forever."

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the Fairyland series. How does it compare with other books about human kids in a fairy tale world? Do you have any favorites among those stories?

  • If you and your friends were on a quest to find something in a strange universe, who would be good at what -- and how might that come in handy?

  • If you're confronted with a problem you have no idea how to solve (as is September, who doesn't know any Latin and needs to learn some fast), what would you do? When might you ask someone for help? When might you look something up on the Internet? What could go wrong?

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