"Stranger things have happened- and recently too."
Cloaked was my first encounter with Alex Flinn, the author behind the fairy tale retelling Beastly. Like Beastly, Cloaked takes a young man in modern times and throws him into the world of fairy tales. In this case the young man is Johnny, a cobbler who dreams of making enough money so that him and his mother don't have to constantly worry about loosing the family business. Johnny also designs shoes in his spare time, making them out of fabric scraps. When he is approached by a princess for the opportunity to find her brother who was transformed into a frog, he thinks she is crazy. Then she offers to marry him should he succeed, something which would solve all of his financial problems, so he decides to consider what she has to say- and before Johnny knows it he's talking to animals and has a magic cloak that allows him to vanish and reappear anywhere. The mission challenges everything Johnny thought he knew, and with his best friend Meg along for the ride, he deals with witches, giants, and magic he never knew existed.
Cloaked is a fun read, but the story begins to get predictable about halfway through the novel, as it becomes clear that each new person Johnny visits will first have him perform a task before helping him with his journey. There are a couple twists but they are really easy to guess even if you are not familiar with the fairy tales, which I wasn't. The story and the characters involved were all sweet though. My biggest problem with Cloaked is that it is being marketed as young adult and I do not think it qualifies. A lot of the problems I had with the book would have been acceptable in a middle grade book, as it is just the kind of cute quirky story I would have loved in elementary school. The novel is also pretty clean with the exception of some kissing, and like all fairytales it has a moral at the end. The predictability as well as the fact that the characters are fairly shallow, as Flinn focuses more on telling an entertaining story than development complex characters, meant that Cloaked is just too young for a young adult audience.
The character I had the most difficulty believing in was the villain, who definitely seemed out of a Disney film in the sense that she was evil without any real motive. I also found that at times Cloaked contained a few too many fairy tales, as if Flinn was attempting to fit as many into the novel as possible, and I think it would have benefited from including a couple less. Even though I was enjoying the book and funny quotes about shoes, I never felt a pull towards finishing it, even finding myself bored at times because of the predictability and repetitiveness of the story. My favourite part of the novel was the storyline with the swans, and I definitely plan to check out the original fairytale that section is based on in the future. Ultimately, Cloaked is a cute if not entirely memorable read which I would definitely recommend for those looking for a middle-grade level read, but would hesitate to suggest for an older audience.
Release Date: February 8th, 2011
Source: ARC from Publisher
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