cover image Story Thieves

Story Thieves

James Riley. S&S/Aladdin, $16.99 (400p) ISBN 978-1-4814-0919-3

When Owen discovers that his classmate Bethany can jump into fictional worlds, he’s desperate to enter his beloved Kiel Gnomenfoot series. Bethany isn’t interested in giving Owen a tour: she’s busy looking for her father, a fictional character who disappeared into a book when she was young. After Owen offers Bethany a possible way to find her father, she agrees to take him into Kiel’s book on the condition that Owen not interfere with the story. As the concept demands, self-awareness plays a big role in the narrative, and the interplay of text and metatext is one of its most entertaining aspects (“This would be huge. Bigger than saving Dumbledore,” thinks Owen, marveling at the chance to prevent the death of a beloved character). The plot gets chaotic as Owen and Bethany’s actions create a mess of repercussions in reality, and readers face the challenge of intuiting the events of an invented series while its constructs are being pulled down around them. By book’s end, though, Riley brings his interwoven levels of story to a conclusion that satisfies both intellect and narrative. Ages 8–12. Agent: Michael Bourret, Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. (Jan.)