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Originally posted at Fantasy Literature.
Eva Nine has been living in an underground bunker for all of her twelve years of life. She’s being raised by a slightly humanoid robot named MUTHR (it’s an anagram), her omnipod (a personal hand-held device) and her computerized home called Sanctuary. Eva Nine is the only human she’s ever seen. What’s above ground? Why is she not allowed out? Are there any other humans on Earth? If not, where are they? Soon some of Eva’s questions will be answered because somebody is hunting her and to escape, she must leave Sanctuary by herself.
When Eva Nine gets outside, she finds that everything is unrecognizable and nothing is as she’s been taught. The flora and fauna are unknown to her omnipod which is usually able to identify anything. She encounters strange enemies and makes friends with creatures that seem impossible. Could it be that she’s not on Earth? Where is she? Why is somebody hunting her? And what is WondLa, a word she saw on an old scrap of paper? With a couple of new friends, Eva Nine sets out to discover the truth.
The Search for WondLa has a great premise and a delightful heroine. It’s easy to care about Eva Nine, a sweet girl who’s totally alone in a foreign world. The setting is intriguing (both above and below ground) and the story is filled with weird creatures, some of whom are quite loveable. The print version of The Search for WondLa has some wonderful art which you can see at Tony DiTerlizzi’s website. (DiTerlizzi is the co-creator of the popular SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES.)
Unfortunately, I didn’t find the plot of The Search for WondLa to be engaging for long. While I liked Eva Nine and was interested in her situation and the answers to all her questions, I thought that most of the plot dragged and was repetitive. Eva Nine escapes the Sanctuary, travels, gets caught, escapes, travels, gets caught, escapes, travels. There’s a little more to it than that, but not much. As she travels, there is a lot of description of Eva’s world, but even this is dull to read, unfortunately. If there had been beauty in the prose, or if the author had given me something deep to contemplate, I would have liked this part better.
Eva’s situation is desperate, but I never felt it. Every time there’s some sort of tension, it’s resolved quickly. I was also never convinced that Eva Nine was truly hungry, thirsty, tired, dirty, or scared. Eva Nine seems to float above the surface of the world and rarely feels truly engaged, though she’s always describing it to us. Similarly, the weird creatures she meets never felt fully alien. They look strange and each has its own cutesy speech mannerism, but other than that they feel human.
The Search for WondLa will likely appeal to Middle Grade readers, its target audience, but maybe not to older readers who would like a more solid feeling world, more beauty in the writing style, and something to think about. The story ends on a major cliffhanger that will thrill those who’ve enjoyed the book, but I decided that I didn’t care enough to purchase the sequel.
I listened to the audiobook version which was produced by Simon & Schuster and read by actress Teri Hatcher. This is Hatcher’s first audiobook experience (at least the first available on Audible) and she does a nice job, but I had to speed it up quite a bit because her delivery is slow (or maybe the book was just boring).
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