The Search for WondLa
Search for WondLa
Tony DiTerlizzi
ISBN 9781416983101
Simon & Schuster, 2010.
4 ½ stars
Keywords: adventure fantasy search-for-wondla tony-diterlizzi

The Search for WondLa
by Tony DiTerlizzi

If your child enjoyed The Spiderwick Chronicles, which Tony DiTerlizzi co-authored with Holly Black, then he or she is very likely to enjoy this fantasy adventure, the first in a planned trilogy. At 12 years old, Eva Nine has never left the confines of her home. She lives with her guardian, a multi-limbed robot named Muthr, in an underground Sanctuary. Eva has never seen the sun, the sky (except through holograms), or another human being. Still, she is convinced that there is someone out there who is just like her. Eva “just want[s] to have friends.” She wants to search for people like her--people like the ones in the image she discovered of a child, adult and robot on “a small, thin item,” which she calls “WondLa” because of the few letters still legible on it. Her opportunity arrives sooner than expected when an intruder breaks into the Sanctuary, forcing Eva to flee while Muthr stays behind to try and extinguish the fires he sets. Even though Muthr has been training Eva with the aid of an Omnipod (a handheld device with a small eye-like opening) to survive on their planet’s surface, nothing prepares Eva for what she discovers there.

The creatures she encounters seem at once primitive yet extraordinarily advanced. The intruder who devastates Eva’s Sanctuary, a towering Dorcean named Besteel, flies in a glider and carries a sonic boomrod (a kind of futuristic stun gun), yet thinks like a single-minded beast in search of prey. An armored behemoth named Otto (which Eva’s Omnipod identifies as a kind of “tardigrade or water bear”) communicates with her telepathically. And a blue-hued rabbit-like Caerulean who comes to Eva’s aid speaks a seemingly nonsensical language, then hands her a transcoder that serves as a translator for the two of them. His words may be the wisest of all. He introduces himself as Rovender Kitt, “an old creature in a new world.” The heroine replies, “I am Eva Nine… a new creature in an old world.” The author threads other lyrical symmetries throughout the narrative: At the novel’s start, Eva ponders the delicate construct of a piece of moss, which leads her to ask, “What is its purpose? What is my purpose?” Much later, when she is captured for possible inclusion in Her Majesty’s museum, the curator echoes her musings, “All organisms strive toward a common goal… to understand one of the universe’s biggest mysteries: Why are we here?” Instead of going down the rabbit hole with Alice, we travel up to the surface with Eva. But the two heroines share much in common in the sense of exploring a wonderland. The illustrations manage to be both futuristic and deeply rooted in the moment—no small task. The author brings the volume to a satisfying close yet leaves enough unanswered questions for the next episodes.

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