High-school student Elizabeth Rew is feeling lonely: her new stepmother is taking up most of her father’s time, and she’s just transferred to a new school where she doesn’t have any friends. So when her history teacher suggests that she get a job with the New York Circulating Material Repository, she looks forward to the new experience. The Repository is a lending library for objects, including famous historical artifacts like Marie Antoinette’s wig; but Elizabeth soon discovers that there are even more important objects to be found. Specifically, the Grimm Collection houses fairytale items with magical properties, including flying carpets and seven-league boots. As Elizabeth explores the wonders of the Grimm Collection, she also befriends her fellow employees, including popular Marc, beautiful Anjali, and standoffish Aaron. When some of the magical items go missing, it’s up to Elizabeth and her newfound friends to discover who is stealing from the Grimm Collection — before they become the thief’s next victims.
A few years ago I read Polly Shulman’s other book, Enthusiasm, and really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, this book didn’t work for me quite as well. I absolutely loved the premise — what if you could actually borrow the magic mirror from Snow White or Aladdin’s lamp? — and many of the details related to this concept worked very well. I especially liked the idea that borrowers had to leave a “deposit” for the items, which could be something like their sense of direction, their singing voice, or their firstborn child. The problem with the book is that it’s geared toward a very young audience. I don’t have a problem with YA in general, and I’ve read many excellent books in the genre, but this one really felt like YA or even juvenile fiction. If I’d read the book at age 11, I probably would have loved it, but as an adult, I found it far too simplistic. There were also a few plot points that weren’t fully fleshed out, such as Elizabeth’s relationships with her dad and stepmom. Overall, the book is a decent read, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re really OK with juvenile or YA fiction.