Based on Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Furthermore is Taherah Mafi’s foray into middle grade literature. It is the story of Alice Alexis Queensmeadow and her adventures in the land of Furthermore to find her missing father.
In the magical land of Ferenwood, Alice lives with her mother and three younger brothers. Alice’s relationship with her mother is stranded though Alice is not sure why. It likely has to do with the disappearance of Alice’s father, who went missing three years prior. See, that’s a strange thing in itself because citizens of Ferenwood do not simply go missing. There is also the matter of Alice’s color; in a land full of color, Alice has none. This makes her different from her peers, nearly an outcast in bright Ferenwood.
Alice is on the eve of her twelfth birthday and the event known as the Surrender. Upon their twelfth year, the young citizens of the magical land of Ferenwood put their magical talents on display (you see, everyone in Ferenwood has magic, even no color Alice). Before her Surrender, Alice is confronted by Oliver Newbanks, a boy from her school years who has already undergone his Surrender but has not yet completed the task given to him. To complete his task, he needs Alice’s help. But Alice won’t help Oliver because she does not trust him and the lies he tells.
When her Surrender doesn’t go as planned, Alice finds herself following Oliver into the odd country of Furthermore. It is here that Oliver tells Alice her father disappeared to – and they he knows where Alice’s father is. Compelled to find her father and bring him home, Alice follows Oliver into Furthermore despite her mistrust of him. They find themselves in dangerous territory, where the magic of the land works differently than in Ferenwood, and where the citizens are so starved for magic they consume everything. Including children.
Furthermore is a whimsical read, full of magic and adventure. I found it to be fun, but a little confusing at times. I couldn’t understand some of the rules the land of Furthermore had, nor could I understand some of the actions Alice and Oliver took. Perhaps it’s because I’m well past my middle grade years and, as much as I wish I could keep it, my adult mind works differently from my childhood mind (Alice’s father says at much at one point in the story).
For fans and readers of Lewis Carroll’s work, you will find some notable but different scenes in Furthermore. The fall down the rabbit hole, the small door that opens into a wonderland, there are many elements in Furthermore that are recognizable in some way. Having read Lewis Carroll earlier this year, these similarities were more apparent since Wonderland was still fresh in my mind.
While I found the story whimsical and a fun read, my adult brain was puzzled by how quickly the ending occurred. It seemed as if the ending was far too easy a resolution given all the trials and dangers Alice and Oliver found themselves in. After all, breaking into a prison is far easier than breaking out. But I suppose middle grade stories deserve a happy ending.
I applaud Mafi for creating a heroine who is visually different from the other characters; this allows children who have physical differences to learn it’s okay to be different, that the strength of your inner character is far more important than looks. I do wish, however, that Alice had remained disabled – at one point in the story, she loses her arm due to some bad decisions. Having Alice learn to cope with her disability, I think, would have been a great tool to teach that bad decisions can have dire consequences but that one can still live and learn and cope with their mistakes. A lesson that not everything has a simple solution. But in a land of magic, Alice was made whole again and I found that lost lesson to be a disappointment.
Overall, I found Furthermore to be a fun read with lessons to be learned but it is not without its faults and holes.
My rating: 3.5/5