Are you ever unsure if you actually liked a book or not? That’s how I feel about Furthermore. The descriptions were unmatched and I loved the main characters — but the story itself fell flat for me.
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Quick Pitch: Alice, the only pale person in her colourful world, must go on a journey through a dangerous, unknown world in order to find her missing father.
Why it’s diverse: POC protagonist, diverse cast
CWs: very minor violence, some disturbing themes
Rating: Three Invisible Ferenberries
Furthermore is the debut Middle Grade novel from best-selling YA author Tahereh Mafi. The novel follows twelve-year-old Alice, an almost completely colourless girl and an outsider in her extremely colourful society. The only person who made her feel at home was her father, and he’s been missing for three years. But when her former school bully, Oliver, comes crashing back into her life, he offers her a chance to find her father. She and Oliver journey into the strange, magical, and very dangerous land of Furthermore, where they’ll have to use all their wits to make it through alive, let alone find Alice’s father.
Furthermore was all about the imagery. Every page was almost literally dripping with sights, sounds, smells, and tastes. However, while the description was lush and delightful to read, it was sometimes excessive. There were even a few chapters that could have been cut from the story, without affecting the plot, that pretty much amounted to only description.
Plot was my main issue with Furthermore. While there was a driving force throughout the book, the search for Alice’s father, the narrative took a very meandering road to get to him. Considering Furthermore had a very wonderland feel (and honestly, with a protagonist named Alice I doubt it was a coincidence), this didn’t always bother me. But sometimes it felt like unnecessary, extraneous bits of plot happened to Alice and Oliver by accident, rather than feeling like part of a whole, progressing narrative. The kids became so bogged down with extra plot that I was sure the book would end on a cliff-hanger leading into a sequel where they would finally complete the main objective, but instead the narrative wrapped up rather abruptly and coincidentally.
I want to acknowledge that my knowledge and therefore internal preference for story structure is a very western one. It could very well be that the structure of Furthermore comes from a cultural background that is not my own, but is very much valid. Therefore, while it was not my cup of tea, I don’t want my biases stopping people from giving the book a chance.
There is a lot to recommend about Furthermore. The descriptions in the book really are unparalleled. More importantly the characters are great. Both Oliver and Alice are loveable and complicated. They have flaws and make plenty of mistakes – mostly in keeping with their age with I appreciated – but their growing friendship with each other was both a triumph of their personal growth and a joy to read. My frustration with the structure of the narrative aside, Alice and Oliver made the book worth reading, and even has me very strongly considering the sequel.
I recommend Furthermore to anyone 8+ who enjoys stories with vivid imagery, strong friendships, and won’t be bothered by an unconventional story structure.