The Apothecary by Maile Meloy
While I was complaining to my parents about having to leave Los Angeles, a chemist in China was narrowly escaping arrest, and a Hungarian physicist was perfecting the ability to freeze time. I was drawn, through Benjamin and his father, into the web of what they have created.
What author Maile Meloy has created in The Apothecary is the incredibly enchanting adventure of Janie Scott. It is 1952, and Cold War paranoia has infiltrated Hollywood where Janie's folks have been accused of having Communist ties. Once Janie notices the men in dark suits following her home from school, it is not long before she and her parents have fled America for London.
Great Britain has its own set of issues for Janie. They start small--with oversized school uniforms and being thrown midyear into a Latin class. She's not the only one with troubles though. Benjamin, a boy her age, protests an atomic bomb duck-and-cover drill. He insists that if London fell prey to a nuclear attack, a table will not save him.
Benjamin turns out to be the son of the apothecary who runs the drugstore in Janie's neighborhood. Ben would rather be a spy than follow his father into the family business, until he and Janie find out that Ben's father is keeping some very interesting secrets.
The teens quickly find themselves in a whirlwind of espionage, adventure, and magic spells. They will encounter lovable pickpockets and traitorous teachers. Above all, Janie and Benjamin will learn amazing things that they never knew about themselves.
We encounter spells of invisibility, truth elixirs and transformation. On top of that there is a smorgasbord of adventure in this book. Even more delightful is the chance to spend time with these young, brave souls. The book's ending has a magical twist for Janie that had me jumping emotions between utter shock and sheer joy.
This is Maile (pronounced "Miley") Meloy's first book for young adults, but I sincerely hope that she continues to write for that age group. One suggestion I have for fans of the book is Wildwood, by Colin Meloy, the author's brother. Hopefully we will get the chance to visit Janie and Benjamin again quite soon, and school uniforms will certainly be the least of their troubles.