My 9 year-old daughter is an avid reader and over the years we have checked out literally thousands of books from our local library to enjoy together or for her to read on her own now that she is older. In all the years, only 2 books have been so emotionally disturbing to her that they have left her wanting to return the books immediately and never see them again. This is one of them. In fact, I found her in her room crying this evening after finishing the book, and wanting to rid all thoughts of the book from her brain. It took a great deal of comforting to help her get to sleep.
I won't spoil the story for those who wish to read it (nor have I read the book cover to cover myself) but I'll give you a basic rundown....The main character lives with her mother who is a smoker. Her mother, "has tried everything to stop...She is desperate to quit. She knows that she needs to for both of (them)." The main character, who lives a double life as a fairy, wishes to use her fairy magic to help her mother quit smoking but she is reminded that to do so would be against the rules.
In the end, the main character in the book had to sacrifice a significant part of herself and of her memories in a desperate attempt to help her mother quit smoking, an act that causes the other fairies (and the reader) great sadness. In fact, to justify the loss of memories the book states, "It would probably sadden her greatly to realize what she has lost." The book then closes with a PSA about the horrific dangers of smoking including death tolls, and linking smoking to heart attacks, cancer, wrinkles and bad breath, etc. (We are a non-smoking household by the way, and while I certainly agree with the spirit of the "don't smoke" message, I think that the method of education here is misguided and not age-appropriate.)
I'm not sure what the author's intention was with this story; perhaps it was meant to show that life is full of hard choices and there are no happy endings in this cruel world, but I personally don't think that a book about fairies and magic written for young girls as the target audience should turn out to be a tale about the harsh realities of life and the dangers of smoking. The girls want to get lost in a magical fantasy story not be scared straight.
I try to be mindful when allowing my children to select reading material so that the content is appropriate, but it is virtually impossible for me to read every book before they do to make sure that the book is "safe". I wish that I had known to skip this one. I really don't see how it is appropriate as an empowering foray into fantasy for young girls. The cover boldly proclaims, "Inside you is the power to do anything," but the story's message is the true opposite of that and left my daughter grieving for the main character's loss and the seeming injustice of it all.