(This is an old review I wrote for Fairy Tale Fortnight in April, so the layout isn't updated...but rest assured, my feelings are the same!)
Summary -Johnny is a pretty normal guy. He lives in Florida and fixes shoes for a living. Or really, he fixes shoes not just as a living but to pay rent, phone bills, electricity bills, for food, etc. You know, all the every day things your father usually manages to pay for. Johnny's father would pay for theses things - but he disappeared when Johnny was a toddler. Ever since, Johnny's been the man of the house, working to feed and care for his sweet mother who in turn works hard to provide for him. Johnny would love to become a shoe designer, make millions of dollars, and give his mother the life of ease. But, how likely is that to happen? Unless you meet the princess of Aloria, who is filthy rich, thinks you're a good boy, and consequently wants you to find the Prince of Aloria who has been turned into a frog by an evil witch...in return for her hand in marriage and millions of dollars and a life of ease.
Yah...that can be a hard one to pass up.
My thoughts -
Once again, Alex Flinn knocks us all out with a fantastical fairytale that makes you feel like you've never read a fairytale before in your life.
Talk about original. I mean, this book was so original it was almost strange. It was neat, though! From the ear-piece that lets you talk to animals, to the cloak that transports you to wherever you want to go; from the princess who (apparently) wants to marry the boy from South Beach, to the witch who has a grudge and a slightly evil but really predictable plan. It was awesome, on all levels.
For a while I thought the Cloak would be like the one from 12 Dancing Princesses, one that makes you invisible. But no, it was totally different. And the ear piece was a neat idea and added a "technological" magic twist to the story. There were a few other fairytales thrown in there that only added, built, and made the story more enjoyable. The animals that Johnny meets give him quests to test his loyalty and to make sure he's really going to save the prince, which made everything feel a bit more "old fashioned". This all played in to create an atmosphere that was highly original and definitely Alex Flinn. I was hooked from the first pages.
Favorite character (character thoughts) -
Meg is such a great character that I just have to say that she's my favorite. She was strong, honest, and just lovely. She was deserving and totally inspired me. She and Johnny's relationship was hilarious at times and sweet at others. Everything about her made the story all the more lovable.
And while she's my favorite, I can't move on without pointing out my honorable mention, Johnny. He was quite a character as well. He compliments Meg perfectly. He's a klutz (hilarious!), a doubter, and he doesn't follow instructions well. I found that these things, on top of the fact that he's honest, reliable, and loving, made him a great character. I loved that he couldn't always see what was right in front of him. I love a good, teasing love story where you just want to yell at the guy - "SHE'S RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU, STUPID!"
Also, raise your glass to Alex Flinn herself for creating a character like Johnny who is, specifically, a completely different person than his competitors, Kyle from Beastly and Jack from A Kiss in Time. I found this extremely refreshing, as I'm sure you will.
Pretty much the only downer in this book for me: I found that I didn't really, at all, like Victoriana, the Alorian princess. She was funny in parts, but I thought she was ubelievable. I couldn't picture her as clearly as the other characters, even her brother Philippe, and I couldn't hear the accent in the way that Alex Flinn typed it up. It just didn't click for me...but maybe that's just me.
Favorite aspects/scenes -
There are too many aspects of this story to choose from, so I will name as many as I can without spoiling anything for you. The love story was soooo amazing and much more passionate than that of A Kiss in Time. It was believable and well-developed and gave me strong, gutsy butterflies so many times I lost count. The tests Johnny has to go through to gain information are also a favorite part. The lessons Johnny learns...the twist that involves the animals...the amazing shoe quotes that easily become a lovable part of the story. And the perfect ending to a great story.
Some favorite scenes: The sunset scenes with Johnny and Meg........ And I was totally taken by the perfectly smooth scene in the beginning during which Johnny realizes that the Cloak and the ear-piece are really magic. It was amazingly well-told and Johnny's reaction to the magic was normal and hilarious and pretty much perfect. Bravo to Alex Flinn!
One phrase to sum up this book (final thoughts) -
Wonderfully original are the words that come to mind when I think of Cloaked. I could not help but fall in love with this book - and I hope you will, too! I recommend this book highly!
For the parents: A few kisses, with little or no description. A handful of underhand jokes directed toward girls, and a couple of direct comments. None are explicit. A pretty darn clean book. Definitely can be read by a younger audience than Alex Flinn's previous fairytales. I'd say 14 years old is a good age to start. :)