Little Alice Alexis Queensmeadow lives in a little sleepy town of Ferenwood with her mother, father, and younger triplet brothers. All is well until the day Alice’s father goes missing on a journey into the strange and mythical land known as Furthermore. Alice desperately wants to save her father, but in order to do that, she’ll have to befriend the town’s mischievous liar Oliver and survive the treacherous traps that Furthermore has in store for them. Things would be easier if little Alice didn’t feel so powerless because in this world, the more color one has the stronger their magic is. Unfortunately, Alice was born as a blank canvas.
Furthermore is the new novel by The New York Times bestselling author Tahereh Mafi and is her first intended book for younger children. Known for her romance-dystopian young adult series Shatter Me, Mafi implements her captivating writing skills to create a colorful and whimsical tale about accepting oneself and growing up. In a different take on how magic works, Mafi correlates the use and magnitude of power to all of the colors in existence. The town of Ferenwood is reminiscent of Dr. Seuss’s Whoville, where the citizens are all rich in various colors from their hair to their skin tone, which also displays the strength of their magic. However, Alice was born completely void of color except for her eyes, which are gold. Each citizen is also born with a certain “gift” that grants each a unique and special a sort of power. Children in Ferenwood are given a chance to showcase their special talents at a coming-of-age gathering known as the “Surrendering.” Depending on how great ones’ gift is at that time; each child will be given a certain task to complete. Alice hopes to use the ceremony as a chance to be tasked to go on an adventure to find her father. Alice, however, fails at the Surrendering believing that due to her lack of color, she had no special magical gift in the first place.
All is not lost though when Alice’s childhood bully Oliver gives her the opportunity to join him in his own quest to find her father in the land known as Furthermore. The land of Furthermore is extremely imaginative. The land is broken up into many towns and villages, each with their own set of laws and where magic flows through uncontrolled. It is within each town’s rich awe-inspiring descriptions where Mafi’s writing shines. There are towns that defy gravity, logic, and even dimensions, though as beautiful and nonsensical as the land seems, there is something extremely sinister lurking underneath it all.
Furthermore is a strange read. Warning tag, the following contains spoilers. Despite the intended middle grade aged audience, the novel and land of Furthermore can be quite morbid. Magic can be consumed through living things such as plants, animals, and even humans. In short, the residents of Furthermore are cannibals and the danger the protagonists get themselves into is quite horrific. Thrilling as it sounds, the novel also has its slumps. The story takes awhile to unfold and many unsavory situations are hastily and unsatisfyingly resolved due to a rushed deus ex machina ending. Some of these situations happen to revolve around the main characters’ dispositions too; for a majority of the novel, instead of being a pair of children growing up, Alice and Oliver seem more like young adults who got stuck in the state of immaturity. They do eventually grow out of it, but it takes far too long within the novel, sometimes making the horrors they face feel like a blessing to readers.
Despite some of these flaws, Mafi’s writing can still captivate readers. Her prose sucks readers in, beckoning them to continue on and leaving them yearning for more. While it may have been worth more as a duology, Furthermore is still a fun and unique stand-alone read. Underlying the magic and sinister world it takes place in, Furthermore serves as a commentary on diversity and accepting oneself.