O (don’t call her Ophelia) is a 14-year-old girl who is visiting her Aunt Emily for the summer. The plan is for Emily to take care of O while O’s father is off researching Ezra Pound in Italy; but O will also be taking care of Emily, who recently suffered a heart attack. When O arrives at Emily’s bookstore, the Green Man, she immediately senses something unique about it. The place is disorganized and covered in dust, but O learns that it was once a site for weekly poetry readings and that it may just be haunted by some literary ghosts. As O gets used to the Green Man and to her stubborn aunt, she eventually discovers that Emily is tormented by a secret from her past. But what does this secret have to do with an ancient flyer for a magic show, a collection of valuable old books, or the mysterious boy O befriends at the bookstore? Together, O and Emily must uncover the secret and allow their poets’ souls to believe in magic and mystery.
This book was apparently written in 2012, but it has a timeless quality that reminds me of the books I read in childhood. There are no references to computers or cellphones, and aside from one use of the word “hipster” (which was actually quite jarring), there’s nothing that really anchors the story to a specific place and time. I also think the book would be most enjoyed by a younger audience. Protagonist O is 14 or 15, but based on her actions in this book, she could be much younger. There’s a hint of romance with her mysterious male friend, but certainly nothing overt, and O’s main internal conflict involves her desire to write poetry. I personally found the book well-written and interesting, but I also found it easy to put aside. That said, I think 12-year-old me would have loved it! So I would recommend this book to teens and pre-teens who enjoy reading and magic, but I don’t think it’s a particularly great read for adults.