Fun fantasy read

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NEVER AFTER is a completely charming middle grade fantasy. We are introduced to Filomena Jefferson-Cho, a young girl who is an avid reader and a fan of the Never After books. These books were planned to be a series of 13 and tell of the adventures in the world of Never After, where fairytales are turned around and retold. When the planned release for the 13th book is cancelled and said to not exist, Filomena is distraught - this fictional world has meant so much to her, and she knows the books inside and out.

When she runs into one of the main characters, Jack Stalker, she can hardly believe her eyes. But then, she finds that she is able to cast the spells from the books, and then, after a series of unfortunate events, ends up in Never After - the world she never thought could be real. She later learns that she may have an unexpected and critical role to play in it all.

Interspersed amongst Filomena's story is that of Caraboose, the thirteenth fairy, in a prologue that is divided throughout the book. Seeing it all come together was absolutely thrilling.

What I loved: Filomena is an excellent main character, and she experiences a lot that would be typical of the age group experience, such as feeling like she does not fit in, trying to find her place, and figure out who she is. In addition, there is a great background theme about family and what makes a family - Filomena is adopted and looks like neither of her parents, who also do not look like each other, but they still share so much love and connection, which is the true measure of family. This is an important message for young readers.

There are also some interesting themes about morality, such as if someone does a bad thing for a good reason, where would that fall on the scale, as well as the twisting/shaping of history by the person who is doing the telling, where some events may occur differently in the retelling than the actual facts. These themes are woven throughout, and I found them very intriguing and highly compelling.

The book has a lot of humor with fairytale creatures in the human world, trying to find their way, such as hunting for a thing called cheeseburgers. This kind of humor was delightfully throughout the book, and reminiscent of THE TENTH KINGDOM and/or ELLA ENCHANTED. Completely charming and giggle-worthy. As a note, this one does complete the story but leave a clear opening for the next book with a new mission. I would definitely want to check out the next, and I think this is a great start to a really fun series.

Final Verdict: A charming read with compelling characters and giggle-worthy storylines, NEVER AFTER is a middle grade fantasy that is definitely worth adding to your collection.

Please note that I received an ARC from the publisher. All opinions are my own.