Maple Express: One Girl’s Unconventional Journey to Find Herself by Peter A. Brandt
Publisher: Simple Simon Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Action/Adventure
Age Recommendation: 10+
Length: Full length (178 pages)
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Astilbe
Sara Maple has a comfortable life—the only child of a wealthy family—a best friend who does everything she asks—and the admiration of most of her schoolmates. Unfortunately, her temper and “indestructible” attitude quickly place her in a very precarious position.
“Maple Express” is a powerful novel that captures the author’s take on the miracle of the human mind. “Maple Express” delves into the actions and consequences of a young girl who has never had to take responsibility for her actions before. The story brings the reader into a world where Sara’s determination to find her way off the train sends her on an emotional trip that bonds her to her new friends and changes her life forever.
Both young and old readers will love the emotional journey Sara Maple takes them on as she deciphers the obstacles that confront her. Sara’s story ends with a surprise twist and leaves the reader with a sense of discovery about his or her own humanity.
What happens when an entitled teenager wakes up on a train with no memory of how she ended up there?
Sara Maple is not a very kind person. As the spoiled only daughter of the wealthiest family in town she’s spent the last sixteen years of her life having the rules bent in her favor. In the beginning I couldn’t figure out why anyone would choose to spend time with someone who has such a quick temper and sharp tongue. She’ll grow on you, though, as you discover more and more unexpected aspects of her personality.
There are some truly gorgeous illustrations in this book. Early sketches show a few glimpses of Sara’s mysterious train, another one is of a pivotal secondary character. It would have been nice if more illustrations had been included. Seeing the interior and exterior of the train was interesting but there were far more exciting images that could have been drawn instead.
The metaphors are also vivid and unforgettable. One of my favourites was, “she felt like a side of beef dangling in a butcher’s freezer.” It’s an odd image – what, exactly, would it be like to be a side of beef dangling in a walk-in freezer? – but it worked really well for that particular scene.
I had trouble figuring out an appropriate age recommendation. Sensitive topics like alcoholism, abuse, and neglect are raised but nothing is described in details that are inappropriate for the vast majority of preteens. And, to be honest, many readers in this age range have either experienced these things personally or have friends or family members who have dealt with them!
One of my biggest issues with this book was that it told us what characters were like instead of having them naturally exhibit those personality traits or emotions as they interacted with one another. For example, here’s a quote from one of the earliest chapters:
“Sara’s mother was twelve years younger than her father. In many ways, Sara could see they weren’t very compatible. Her mother had always been a partier, both throwing them and attending them, while her father despised being around people. Her mother didn’t let him stop her and loved to party until the wee hours of the morning.”
We later learn even more ways in which Sara’s parents have not worked well together but those revelations would have been more meaningful had we, say, heard them argue about an upcoming party instead.
I recommend Maple Express for anyone in the market for a well-paced, exciting adventure. You will not be disappointed!