Monday, October 21, 2019

The Candymakers

The Candymakers
by Wendy Mass
Recommended Ages: 12+

Logan, Miles, Daisy and Philip are four of 32 contestants in the Confectionary Association's annual New Candy Contest. This year, the 12-year-olds get to work on their entries in the contest – of which the winning candy will actually go into commercial production – at the Life Is Sweet candy factory, where Logan has lived all his life. But before Logan's three guests can move from being competitors toward real friendship, they'll all have to deal with issues that, in more than one case, actually threaten the existence of Life Is Sweet. Secretly, one of them is a spy working for a rival candymaker; one of them bears a grudge, and is out for revenge; and one of them is just struggling to cope with reality. Logan himself carries scars that are visible to everyone but himself.

Every day, Logan's mother passes him a note with an inspirational quote on it. On Day 2 of the group's three-day candymaking experience, the note says, "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about." This could actually serve as a theme for the entire book, in which the same two days play back four times so that we can re-experience them from each of the hero kids' point of view. Every exchange takes on a new meaning when you find out what they're coping with at the time. This part of the story is fascinating and often surprising, but the real fun doesn't begin until all the kids get on the same page and start making things happen together – when they get around the obstacles in their way and begin to act like friends.

It's a delicious book, and not just because of the awesome candy factory it depicts. It's a tale that cries out to be added to my running list of healing books. I took pleasure in getting to know each of these main characters better, and seeing them get to know themselves and each other. Their talents are impressive. Their quirks are entertaining. At bottom, they are simply lovable. The complex weave of action and motive, the clever dialogue and even cleverer plot design, are evidence of a master storyteller at work.

The sequel to this book is titled The Candymakers and the Great Chocolate Chase. Wendy Mass is also the author of four Twice Upon a Time books, five Willow Falls books, six Space Taxi books with co-author Michael Brawer, four Time Jumpers books, several other novels for young readers with such titles as A Mango-shaped Space, Heaven Looks a Lot Like the Mall and Pi in the Sky, and several nonfiction books that seem to be of the educational persuasion.

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