The Wizard, the Witch & Two Girls from Jersey
by Lisa Papademetriou
Recommended Age: Age: 14+
Fantasy will never be the same. Not after a couple of high school girls from New Jersey, USA get zapped by a malfunctioning barcode scanner at a bookstore while wrestling over the last in-stock copy of The Queen of Twilight, a fantasy book for which they have to write a book report. For bookworm Veronica Lopez, it's simply a matter of refreshing her memory of a book she has read many times, only she can't find her old copy of it. For self-absorbed popular-girl Heather Simms, it's a last-minute attempt to salvage her grade in English class. But since neither of them will let go of the book, the laser beam sends them both straight into it. Yes, into the book.
Right away, their presence in the pages of The Queen of Twilight begins to change the plotline. Suddenly the two girls who don't belong in a fantasy novel are forced to play the role of its heroine and her dwarf servant. Talk about casting against type! That kind of princess Heather is not. And Veronica gets funny looks whenever she claims that she is a dwarf. The potential for fish-out-of-water humor, like a bizarro version of Disney's Enchanted, is simply astronomical. What makes this book remarkable, however, is the fact that it doesn't go for the laughs like you would expect.
The Queen of Twilight is a serious fantasy - with serious consequences for the girls if it doesn't end right. Basically, if they ever want to see home again, they have to help the characters of the book accomplish their tasks, win their battles, and save the day. Two more unlikely heroines could not be imagined.
Even so, their quest wouldn't be half so tough if the plot didn't keep changing from the way it is supposed to go. The people they need in their party, to accomplish next-to-impossible tasks, never join; the comic-relief characters who are only supposed to be around during the lighter, earlier pages of the book, stick with them to the bitter end, forced to do heroic duty beyond what seems to be their destiny. Their route changes, expected challenges being replaced by unexpected ones - and the wild card of Heather, who knows nothing about the book or fantasy in general, means that even conventional fantasy-world challenges will be met in unconventional ways.
There are laughs in the book, and romance, and friendship, and yearning for home, and all kinds of warm fuzzy things. But there are also nasty villains and dangerous beasts, bloody battles and costly mistakes, and moments when all hope seems lost, moments that make you feel as if the room you are in is running low on air. The surprises are not all of the comical, "Have fun storming the castle!" kind. And the lessons the girls learn are not all of the type that looks good in a book report. They turn fantasy-land upside down... but it changes them too, in ways that make this book well worth your time.