AUTHOR: Alex Flinn
PUBLICATION DATE: February 8, 2011
SOURCE: My library
GENRE: Fairy tale mash-up
GIVE IT TO: MS
OVERALL RATING: Neutral opinion
SUMMARY: Johnny works 16 hours a day in his family’s shoe repair shop. Johnny thinks he is pretty unspecial; his life, poor, stressful, and lacking excitement. When a famous princess comes to town, she gives him the opportunity for adventure, excitement, and money in exchange for finding her brother, who had been turned into a frog. If he succeeds, the beautiful princess will marry him, and his family will never need to worry about money again. Armed with a magical cloak, the ability to talk to animals, and $10,000 in his pocket, Johnny battles witches, giants, and crazy motorcycle men on a journey that takes him from the Florida Keys to Europe to New York City.
WHAT I LIKED: When I was a little girl, one of my favorite cartoons was A.J. Jacobs’s “Fractured Fairy Tales” segment on The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. I still love fractured fairy tales and even have a book of A.J. Jacobs’s Fractured Fairy Tales today.
As the author of Beastly and A Kiss in Time, Alex Flinn has made a name for herself as a fractured fairy tale novelist for teens, and I really appreciate what Flinn has done for some of the lesser-known fairy tales. While many have heard of “The Frog Prince” (due in part to the recent Disney film adaptation), Cloaked incorporates “The Valiant Tailor,” “The Elves and the Shoemaker,” and “The Fisherman and His Wife,” among others. Flinn weaves these very different stories together seamlessly, leaving no tale with loose-ends. In doing so, she introduces a new generation of teens to seven lesser-known traditional tales.
I liked the book best when Johnny’s best-friend Meg entered the adventure. Meg has had a huge crush on Johnny for years, but Johnny (who has some feelings for Meg as well) is absolutely clueless about her feelings. Meg is hiding more than her crush, and as the story continues, readers will see that Meg has lots of tricks up her sleeve.
I love how Johnny works so hard to support his family and worries about his family’s bills. As a teen, I would have related to that, and I know lots of young readers will also know that life all too well. Like any good fairy tale, there are morals. Hard work and honesty are rewarded in the end. Sometimes you have to fight to find the one you love. And no matter how hard you have it, you could always become a talking fox digging for food in a dumpster.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE: Johnny’s character is infuriating! How clueless can one person be? Meg bombards him with hints, clues, and pretty much TELLS him that she loves him, and he still doesn’t get it. Even though he sees that magic is real, Johnny doesn’t see that Meg has magic after countless inexplicable incidents. Johnny may work hard, but his oblivion is irritating. Smart, resourceful, and magical, Meg really could have done the entire journey by herself and probably could have finished in half the time. Considering how clueless Johnny is, it’s a wonder why she held out for him all those years.
The French accents are annoying and painful to read. Princess Victoriana and Prince Philippe may be hot, but it’s strange how they think everyone wants to marry them.
I just wasn’t turning the pages like I did with Beastly and A Kiss in Time. Unlike Flinn’s previous two books, the romantic chemistry between the two main characters is lukewarm at best. I found myself skimming in areas; I just didn’t care enough for Johnny to worry about how he would get out of certain situations. While lots happens on the journey, it is all very predictable. I knew Johnny would ultimately beat the witch, fell the giants, and (eventually!) discover his love for Meg.
- Language: virtually none; one curse word (in French)
- Sexuality: mild; a few chaste kisses
- Violence: mild; fairy tale witches/magic
- Drugs/Alcohol: mild; lots of references to the princess’s perceived partying/drug/alcohol habit
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: Considering the popularity of Beastly and A Kiss in Time in my library, I purchased three copies of Cloaked when it first came out. Students definitely do check it out, but I don’t hear them buzzing about it like I do with the other two. My library has 35 copies of Beastly (no kidding), and I still could not keep them on the shelves last school year. Likewise for our six copies of A Kiss in Time. Our three copies of Cloaked are often checked out, but they just do not have the same following as the other two.