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Let me preface this by saying that I do not read a lot of middle grade books these days, but if more were as eloquently written, engaging, and surprisingly relatable as The Marvelous Adventures of Gwendolyn Gray I would definitely read them more frequently. I was hooked with the opening and continued reading with fervor. This reminded me of the film Dark City, the writings of Michel Foucault, a bit of Pleasantville – all wrapped up in a fast paced read suitable for middle grade and young adult readers. This engaging story features a dystopian society that stifles imagination and creativity, and a strong female lead that dares to be different.
Gwendolyn Gray faces an overwhelming battle every day: keeping her imagination under control. It’s a struggle for a dreamer like Gwendolyn, in a city of identical gray skyscrapers, clouds that never clear, and grown-ups who never understand.
But when her daydreams come alive and run amok in The City, the struggle to control them becomes as real as the furry creatures infesting her bedroom. Worse yet, she’s drawn the attention of the Faceless Gentlemen, who want to preserve order in The City by erasing Gwendolyn and her troublesome creations.
With the help of two explorers from another world, Gwendolyn escapes and finds herself in a land of clockwork inventions and colorful creations. Now Gwendolyn must harness her powers and, with a gang of airship pirates, stop the Faceless Gentlemen from destroying the new world she loves and the home that never wanted her—before every world becomes gray and dull.
The story follows Gwendolyn, a twelve year old girl with a wild imagination – one that is in contract to the drab, dystopian City she lives in: gray sky, gray skyscrapers. School in her City brings the Foucaultian notion of education to life, serving only to prepare children for adulthood and to train them in the rules of society. Her imagination constantly gets her into trouble with her vivid daydreaming… Not to mention that she sticks out like a sore thumb with her fire red hair and she doesn’t want to conform to the norms of her City. She accidentally rides the metro beyond what is known and uncovers a world beyond her imagine, stumbling into a battle beyond reason. Rescued by two kids that appeared seemingly out of nowhere, she embarks on an adventure to save the world.
This tale is written in third person, Williamson crafts a compelling a fast-paced read that is suitable for the middle grade/young adult reader, as well as those interested in dystopian adventures with strong female leads. The central themes of the book – imagination and creativity – are woven into an allegory for growing up and having that childlike wonder crushed by society. I very much enjoyed this read and recommend it to pretty much everyone!
The Marvelous Adventures of Gwendolyn Gray will be available on May 15, 2018.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher, North Star Editions/Jolly Fish Press, for the e-arc in exchange for my honest review and feedback. You can find information about my rating criteria here.