Lauren Oliver is an author of many talents, she began her career by publishing a contemporary YA novel (Before I Fall), followed up with the first novel in a dystopia trilogy (Delirium) and her most recent novel, Liesl & Po, is a middle-grade story that takes place in a world with similarities to our own only filled with all kinds of magic. Liesl is a young girl whose father has just died, leaving her in the care of a stepmother who locks Liesl in the attic where her only escape is to draw. Then one night Po, a ghost from the Other Side, appears and the two form an unexpected friendship. At the same time, Will, an equally lonely alchemist’s apprentice a botches an important delivery which will have important consequences for Liesl and Po, ultimately drawing the three of them together on a remarkable journey.
Liesl & Po is the magical kind of book that even if it is intended for a younger audience, is filled with a warmth that will enchant the reader regardless of age. This is the kind of timeless story, like Roald Dahl, which will be just as powerful in fifty years as it today. Also like Dahl, this is a story about children, in which the adults are rather one-dimensional villains but that works within the context of the book, as it is reminiscent of a traditional fairy tale.
Oliver’s writing is amazing, lyrical with poetry in just the right places, and complimented by beautiful black and white sketches done by Kei Acedera. It is Oliver’s amazing ability with words that makes Liesl & Po into such an incredibly whimsical story, one that flows smoothly and is filled with pure, young, emotion.
This is a novel that confronts the difficult issue of death and grief in a way that neither minimizes nor sensationalizes it, but rather takes an honest and simple look at one little girl and the astonishing journey she takes.
Ultimately, Lauren Oliver has completely won me over as a reader- she could write a restaurant menu or instructions for installing a television and I would rush to the store to buy it. As a writer, Oliver has a unique and powerful perspective, which she is able to share with astonishing clarity because of the eloquence of her writing, on full display in her timeless and magical novel, Liesl & Po.