Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Strict Pick: Liesl & Po (+ an ARC giveaway)

So I didn't get around to writing this on Tuesday, and here's why: I HAD to finish this book. Some people can write a review after having read only a portion of a title, and honestly, I could have done that. But with this title I wanted to finish. It's that lovely.

Now, I have a bit of a YA reader confession to make. Despite her being all the rage with her twin bestsellers Before I Fall and Delirium, I had yet to read anything by  Oliver when Liesl showed up on the lunchroom table at work. I snatched it up, intending to send it over to my friends at, but then I opened it and read the preface, and decided to keep this one for myself.

Oliver writes:  

Liesel & Po is the embodiment of what writing has always been for me at its purest and most basic—not a paycheck, certainly; not an idea, even; and not an escape. Actually, it is the opposite of an escape; it is a way back in, a way to enter and make sense of a world that occasionally seems harsh and terrible and mystifying.
For me, I think that was what drew me to this story. One of the things that is so utterly easily lost in the frenzy of writing for commercial appeal, the hunt for an agent, the examination of even the most minute shifts in trend, is writing as a way back to the self. I've written ever since I was a little girl; it was a way for me to play with my imaginary friends without being made fun of by my brothers. So, writing which allows someone to tap back into the world—that's exactly the kind of writing I want to read.

Liesl is, at its core, a charming story of a girl's search not only to restore her father's ashes to the resting place he wished (an autobiographical part of the story, according to the preface), but also the story of how such a search can end in creating space for one to have friends and hope. There's a lot here for its middle grade audience to love: magic, evil adults and kids who triumph, and the fascinating illustrations by Kei Acedera.

But for me as a writer, it was a reminder that sometimes the most deeply personal writing can also break those bonds of commercial viability, and that writing close to the heart can produce a story worth telling.

Some reviewers have critiqued this story for being a bit coincidental, and I can see merit in that. Parts of it do fall together a bit unnaturally neatly...but then, that can be a bit of a hallmark of middle grade. I don't think it detracts from either the story or its message, and I predict this one will be a fun read for its target audience.

It's pretty rare that I buy a copy of a book that I have an ARC of, but in this instance, I really want the finished hardcover with all its completed illustrations.  So, that means that this ARC (which is gorgeous--HarperCollins went all the way for embossing and deckled edges even on the ARC!) is up for grabs. If you'd like it, leave me a note (I'd love it if you'd follow, too, but hey, it's up to you), and maybe tell me how you feel about writing from the heart. To sweeten the pot, I'm going to offer up my other ARC releasing this week: Eve, by Anna Carey, a new YA dystopian also coming out from HC. Check it out on Goodreads, and leave me a comment if you'd like it. I'll pick folks for both books when I do next week's Strict Pick.

Liesl &  Po at Powells
Liesl & Po at Amazon
Liesel & Po at Barnes & Noble


  1. Oh goodness I am so excited to read this book, and I think my daughter would love to read, too. I'm glad you reviewed. It makes me that much more interested.

  2. This book sounds really good:) I've always had a weakness for children's fantasy books.
    As to writing, hmmmm I feel that any written work are a work of art, as after all, it is a creative expression.

  3. I don't know if it's international, anyway this book sounds totally awesome from this words "Liesel & Po is the embodiment of what writing has always been for me at its purest and most basic—not a paycheck, certainly; not an idea, even; and not an escape."
    I started writing when I was a kid because I couldn' afford to buy books, so I started to tell myself stories and put them into words, write them down on a page so they looked like a real story to me. Then, when I grew up, I kept on writing because it was a way to reflect on things, a way to get to know myself. would love to read the book!

  4. Thanks for the opportunity!
    I think authors have to be exceptionally brave to write from the heart. It's hard enough to have your writing out there for everyone and their brother to critique, but it's really hard when that writing contains something that is personal and/or emotional.

  5. Thanks for the awesome giveaway! Writers are the best when they write from the heart because it makes the characters seem way more real and easy to relate to!

    Vivian M

  6. I love everything about Lauren Oliver's writing, so I am especially excited to read Liesl and Po!

  7. Oops, forgot my email addy above.

  8. Oooh, both Liesl and Po and Eve look like great reads! Thanks for the review!

  9. Cool! I'll spread the word.
    I think a reader can tell if heart was put into a's a feeling inside...the characters, dialogue, plot will just GLOW!

    Thanks for the review and Giveaway!

  10. I am so loving this book! I saw Lauren at a book signing last May and we got a sneak peek at Liesl and Po! I have wanted to get my hands on it since then!

    Thank you for your incredible review and giveaway!!


  11. Of course! When writing comes from the heart, something else is put into the story and that something is life. It becomes more real whether it be fantasy or realistic fiction.
    Thank you for your review and for the giveaway.

    Eliza S

  12. I would love to win this book. It's on my to be read list. I like Lauren Oliver's writing style.

  13. People tell me this is a must read so thank you for the review and giveaway. And I believe Lauren Oliver writes from the heart because her stories are enriched.

  14. I would love to win either of these books, but I especially want Liesl & Po! I've heard many good things about it. I think it's amazing when authors can use their personal experiences to share such heart-twisting/warming tales. (Have you heard Lauren's reasons for writing it?) Putting your heart, your soul into your work is at the core of any writer/artist's goal I think. It might be harder to find sometimes, but it's there none the less. =)

  15. Oh, thank you for this amazing giveaway :D I am hoping it is international. <3 I follow you on GFC as Carina Olsen :) And I would so love to win these books. I have read EVE, and oh, it is SO GOOD! <3 But I have not read Liesl & Po yet, but I really, really want to! It sounds so amazing :) Hmm, I do not have a good answer to that question. But I really love it when people write from their heart :) And I really hope everyone does so.
    Love, Carina ~

  16. Thanks for this amazing giveaway. I hope its International. Anyway this book sounds good and really interesting. I've been hearing so much praises about it so I can't help but wish to read it soon. Reading is more than a hobby for me its like breathing, "Can't live without it" ;) Well, its really touching when somebody writes for you from their heart. I wish everyone in this world would truly write from their heart (but sometimes the truth hurts so it should be better for it to be unknown---blissful ignorance).


  17. Thank you for the giveaway, new follower!

    I've become such a Lauren Oliver fan it's ridiculous. I feel like she can do no wrong, even when writing for younger audiences!

    Writing from the heart seems like a surefire way to win over an audience. They can tell that this means a lot to the author and can feel a sense of connection knowing that this is something that the author really feels something for whatever it is he/she is writing.

    Once again thank you!

    amber.hrkns at gmail dot com

  18. Oh.My.Goodness! Giveaway is great. Review is super great.

    My sister and I have read EVERY book by Lauren Oliver. She's a great writer. I enjoy her work so much.
    I think an author that writes from the heart shows determination and keeps their promises and all of that can show in one single story.

    My sister and I live in the same house so I'll include her in this entry :)

    Thanks again

  19. Thanks for the review. You've gotten me even more interested.

    A writer who writes from the heart? That's the best kind there is :)


  20. i would love to win either of the books. they sound interesting.
    i hope it's also open for international readers.

    witchvela at web dot de

  21. Absolutely, Yto! Thanks for coming over!

  22. Oh my goodness, I saw the book's cover at a book convention and have been trying to hunt down its title ever since. The cover alone reminded me of what it means to be immersed into a story as a child.

    Now I only want to get a hold of it even more. =)
    My e-mail is

  23. Am I too late to throw my hat in the ring for Liesel & Po?

  24. I thank you for the information and articles you provided


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