Reading "The AnaSwitch," by Angie Baron, is so enjoyable I didn't notice not much happens plot-wise for most of the book. The story is pretty simple: Anna L Hare (our tall, awkward protagonist) finds out after her father's death that her name is actually Helanar Gatwick and she isn't human--she's half Elvari and half Cloaker. She's whisked off to a mansion where she makes friends with the other six Cloakers who are still alive (and conveniently about her age). In between tea parties, fancy dinners, and tours of their amazing mansion they teach Halanar/Anna about the world she's suddenly thrust into and (sporadically) try to decode the clues left by Helanar's father to lead them to to the AnaSwitch, a magical bracelet made from Helanar's mother's hair that she needs to survive. Along the way Helanar falls in love--twice--thus giving us our YA love triangle.
The world Baron creates is so lovely, and her writing so much darned fun to read it's a hard book to put down. The characters are quirky and fun, from Helanar, who is sweet and evokes such sympathy you don't want anything bad to happen to her ever, to Misty and her cloak of wonders (including an infinite supply of possibilitea, a microwave, and a whisk named Horace), to the tortured Jasper with his spider and snake friends and swoon-worthy hair. This is a book you read for the ride, and it is a fun-filled, magical ride.
(I admit, I might love the book in part because it's set in Australia. It's just a bit comforting to read about footy and winter in June.)
For those who care about the cleanness of books--this one is squeaky clean. Kissing is as scandalous as it gets, and most of the swooning is accomplished over chaste pecks to the cheek. This is a book that you could easily hand to a twelve or thirteen year old, but I still very much enjoyed as an adult. The darkness Helanar faces is of the variety most of us will face in our lives--self-doubt, selfishness, greed. There are hints that Baron is planning to turn the tables on our heroes as well, forcing them to confront more complex ethical questions. I'm expecting these characters are going to face some significant growth in future books.
My only worry while reading the book (and annoyance when I finished) is that most of the action-y stuff happens in the last few pages. I didn't read this book very quickly--it's too fun--until the very end, at which point I started devouring page after page. The ending is fast--it feels like a pleasant trot through the enchanted woods for the first 90%, at which point you're suddenly a contestant in the Kentucky Derby. While there's resolution for one major plot arc (the AnaSwitch itself) Baron leaves most other major plot threads hanging. Grr. Baron does have a fantastic sense of humor about leaving us hanging, at least, so if I ever have the fortune to run into her I'll simply glare in annoyance for a few moments before offering her a proper cup of tea with a frothy pink cupcake.