Maile Meloy's clever and magical novel, The Apothecary, is the author's first foray into the realm of children's literature, and what a charming read it is. Sophisticated, but not overly mature, as so many books for young people are these days, The Apothecary retained an innocence throughout, in spite of the very heavy subject matter... The Cold War and nuclear proliferation.
Transplanted to London, Janie, the heroine, is a teenager from California, coming to terms, like the rest of the world, with the new post WWII reality. Now, the terms Nazi, the Axis, and the Allies, have been replaced by the Soviets, Communism, atomic bombs, and Oppenheimer. But, this story is not all dark and ominous, even with the serious topic, for there are potions and magic books to give the tale a fun twist.
There is romance, too, do not fear, but it is not the sappy, slutty variety, but rather sweet and age appropriate. And, the magic... what fun! It is presented in a playful manner, with elixirs that provide all sorts of excitement.... truth serums, invisibility, and transformations.
Still, even though the story is light-hearted, there is tension and violence, but there is also an overarching theme of anti-war and nuclear non-proliferation, which makes it a good read for the 21st Century.