Book Reviews · Reading

Review: The Key to Extraordinary by Natalie Lloyd

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Fear is just a flashlight that helps you find your courage.

I’ve been excited about this book ever since it was announced, and let me tell you, it lives up to the hype! I kind of fell head-over-heels in book love with Natalie Lloyd when she wrote A SNICKER OF MAGIC, mainly because it was like no other MG book I’ve ever read, and THE KEY TO EXTRAORDINARY is just as unique.

KEY tells the story of Emma, who’s ancestors all have extraordinary destinies. Emma’s family find out their destiny in a dream, and for Emma her destiny can’t come soon enough. Her grandma’s cafe is struggling and Emma is dealing with the death of her mother. But when her dream finally comes, it seems to give Emma an impossible task: to find her town’s lost treasure.

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THE KEY TO EXTRAORDINARY is one of those stories that captivates immediately. By the end of page 1 I was sucked into Emma’s world, which Natalie had created so beautifully. Blackbird Hollow is so richly imagined that every time I opened the book I felt as though I was actually there. Emma’s town is populated with characters that bounce of the pages, full of quirks and eccentricities but who are not wholly made up of those quirks – everyone, even the minor characters seem to have substance, and I think that’s one of the reasons Blackbird Hollow seems like a real place.

Speaking of characters, Granny Blue rocked my socks off. She is Emma’s tattooed, motorbike riding Gran with a heart of gold who’s belief in the destiny dream of their family has been dulled by years of cynicism. Granny Blue could’ve easily been a caricature of who she is, a sum of her parts, but the way Natalie writes her is beautiful – in the end she’s just a grandma trying to get by. Emma, our main character is equally rememberable, albeit in a quieter way. Wise beyond her years, and dealing with so much loss, Emma is the heart of KEY – the living embodiment of the hope that runs through this magical little book.

A thread that runs through both KEY and SNICKER is hope, and I absolutely adore the message that each book sends. Hope is such an important quality, particularly in middle grade fiction, and Natalie just hits the nail on the head here. KEY isn’t preachy in this message of hope, but every time I finished a chapter, or read a particularly gorgeous quote I grinned from ear to ear.

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Every sentence in this book is gorgeously written. Every other sentence could be turned into one of those cool inspirational prints that people hang on their walls. I pretty much read this book thinking ‘I wish I could write this pretty.’

The mystery at the heart of this book is beautifully revealed, and I adored the twists and turns as I sped towards the end of this tale. The magic elements were subtly brilliant, and I LOVED the friendship between Emma, Cody Belle and Earl.

I can already tell that this book will be one of my favourites of 2016, and we’re not even half way through the year yet. It’s a book (like SNICKER) I keep close by, and open every now and again to re-read a section, or find a beautiful quote. It’s a book I recommend again and again, to kids, to fellow MG loving adults, to librarians. It’s a book I still can’t get out of my head.

Never doubt your starry aim.

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