Goodreads: The Key to Extraordinary
Publication Date: Feb. 2016
For generations the women in Emma’s family have had dreams leading them to their destinies. Emma can’t wait for the day her own special path is laid out before her. But then the dream comes and it leads her to an old buried treasure. Does Emma really have what it takes to solve the mystery?
Natalie Lloyd has a real talent for writing quirky yet heartfelt stories, ones populated by people who feel real and down-to-earth, even when they live in magical places. Her debut A Snicker of Magic captured my heart and The Key to Extraordinary has done it again. This is a rare kind of story, the one kind that, when reading it, makes you feel as if you have a friend.
Categorizing Lloyd’s work can prove difficult and that is part of its charm. My library stickered this one as “supernatural” because Emma Pearl lives in a bakeshop on the edge of the local cemetery and she is convinced both shop and cemetery are haunted. However, the ghosts here may or may not be real and, if real, they are more friendly than not–the story is certainly not scary. Indeed, it is full of fantastic elements from rose petals that fall from the sky during certain summers to vines that capture voices to the hot chocolate Granny Blue makes–hot chocolate that seems to be just a little big magical. And yet the story is not quite a fantasy. If anything, maybe it is magical realism.
And just like that Lloyd has you believing in magic. Hers is so subtle, such a part of the world. Magical flowers should seem ludicrous, but here they seem right and natural. Even the hauntings in the cemetery seem as if they could be real. I cannot help but wonder if her skill in characterization helps to ground the story and make it seem as if could be true.
Lloyd likes to people her stories with characters you feel you could meet, from Emma’s pink scooter-riding aunt to her tattooed Granny Blue. In other books, these are the people who would embarrass the protagonist. She would refuse to acknowledge the man with the flower in his beard as her uncle. She would wish her granny would stop riding motorcycles and knit like other people’s grandmothers. Her friends would probably make fun of her relatives, too. But Lloyd accepts her characters as they are, and her characters do, too. They’re quirky and strange and maybe not the kind who would be invited to a fancy cocktail party, but they are kind and smart and brave. They’re the type of character you’d actually want to hang out with.
If Lloyd’s magical world and lovable characters weren’t enough, she adds to her list of great story elements by committing herself to diversity. A Snicker of Magic features a boy in a wheelchair. The Key to Extraordinary has a girl with a scar across her face and a boy who won’t talk after a traumatic event. But these are all side notes to the main event, the seeking for treasure and the hope of seeing a ghost. No messages here about learning to accept those who are different–those who are different are simply people.
Not many authors pull off a sophomore attempt as strong as this. I can’t wait to read Lloyd’s future books.