Author/Illustrator: Tony DiTerlizzi
My rating: 5 of 5
Eva Nine has spent her entire life in an underground Sanctuary, raised by the robot she calls Muthr. She’s been training to be ready to take care of herself in the dangerous world above ground, but when an unexpected attack forces her to evacuate the Sanctuary, she finds herself in a world she could never have prepared for. The landscapes, creatures, and technologies Eva encounters are things Muthr and the technology housed in the Sanctuary were completely unaware of, so it looks like Eva’s going to have to figure things out as she goes along. With no specific destination in mind, she begins to search for any other humans on the planet, spurred on by a picture she found–a picture showing a happy family and the words “Wond La” and nothing else. It’s certainly going to be a dangerous search, but Eva’s kind heart leads her to some pretty incredible (and unusual) friends who will help her along her way.
Not having read much Tony DiTerlizzi (just Kenny & the Dragon before), I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from The Search for WondLa. So I was pleasantly surprised to find myself hugely enjoying it. DiTerlizzi’s stated intention is to create a new fairy tale . . . I’m not sure what I think about that. In some senses, the story follows that model: a heroine emerging from long hiding to go on an epic quest in an unknown, seemingly magical world. But to me, I expect more of a “fantasy” vibe from a “fairy tale,” while this story felt more science fiction-like to me. Regardless of genre definitions though, I truly enjoyed Eva’s story. The characters were great, and the mystery and adventure were well balanced. It’s written for younger readers–maybe nine or ten and up–and the intensity and content reflect that well without making the plot any less interesting. One of the best things this book has going for it are the descriptions. To a great extent, DiTerlizzi takes the reader through this incredible new world, inviting us to see, to smell, to experience all the wonder spread out before us. And he somehow does so without descending into that boring descriptive desert that some authors tend to wander into–the one where you know what they’re describing is probably really cool, but you’re so bored you just skip those parts? This isn’t like that at all; it’s breathtaking and beautiful. My one complaint is that a sequel is really necessary for this story, but since The Search for WondLa was so much fun and the sequel is currently available, what’s really there to complain about? Check it out!