Wonderland — From Barbara O’Connor, the beloved author of Wish, comes a big-hearted story about the meaning of friendship, the challenges of growing up, and one lovable runaway dog.
Mavis Jeeter’s mother is constantly moving cities and dragging her along. Their latest move happens because her mother’s most recent relationship has ended. When Mavis’s mom’s new job as a housekeeper takes them to a gated community in Alabama, they meet the Tullys. While Mavis is fearless, spirited, and always ready for an adventure, Rose Tully is sensitive and anxious.
However, both girls are in dire need of a best friend — they decide to choose each other, as soon as they meet. The girls band together to comfort old Mr. Duffy, the gatekeeper whose dog has recently died. In the process, they stumble upon a Greyhound named Henry. Interestingly, part of the story is also told from Henry’s POV, in addition to the girls’ third-person POV.
This story is full of adventure! Mavis and Rose are so different, but ultimately both full of heart. I enjoyed watching them befriend each other and approach problems from their different perspectives. The adult themes of aging, social class distinctions, and separated parents were also well handled — seemingly in the background, but impacting the characters nonetheless.
It was lovely to read a middle-grade book about two girls who are friends and doing all of the outdoorsy things. I found the absence of a crush for either of the girls quite refreshing in this one. Most of the characters in this book are also reasonably fleshed out. Henry’s story was a welcome, pleasant surprise and I enjoyed that plot arc.
As a fan of contemporary fiction, this book felt dated to me. Perhaps there are still parts of Alabama where 12-year-olds do not own phones and spend their summers running wild outdoors. I also wish Rose’s mother was more three-dimensional — she felt almost like a trope or caricature of the uppity member of society.
I enjoyed this middle-grade novel. While Wonderland isn’t my typical kind of novel, I found the protagonists endearing. I couldn’t have cared less about their mission, but kids outside doing things is always a welcome concept. Overall, Barbara O’ Connor’s Wonderland will appeal to lovers of dogs, female friendships, and good ol’ Southern drama.Barbara O' Connor's Wonderland will appeal to lovers of dogs, female friendships, and good ol' Southern drama. Click To Tweet