Author: Alex Flinn
Themes: fairy tales, love, friendship, responsibility, commitment, quest, magic, money, duty
Plot: I'm not your average hero. I actually wasn't your average anything. Just a poor guy working an after-school job at a South Beach shoe repair shop to help his mom make ends meet. But a little magic changed it all.
It all started with a curse. And a frognapping. And one hot-looking princess, who asked me to lead a rescue mission.
There wasn't a fairy godmother or any of that. And even though I fell in love along the way, what happened to me is unlike any fairy tale I've ever heard. Before I knew it, I was spying with a flock of enchanted swans, talking (yes, talking!) to a fox named Todd, and nearly trampled by giants in the Keys.
Don't believe me? I didn't believe it either. But you'll see. Because I knew it all was true, the second I got cloaked.
My Thoughts: Cloaked is a mash up of fairy tales Flinn believed to be underrepresented in literature and film, which is an exciting premise! She takes elements from: The Elves and the Shoemaker, The Frog Prince, The Six Swans (Juliet Marillier's Daughter of the Forest is an excellent retelling btw), The Golden Bird, The Valiant Tailor, The Salad, and The Fisherman and His Wife.
My first thought is that...that's a lot of obscure (well, unless you like fairy tales) stories to mash up and still have a cohesive representation of each. In fact...the only one that really shines through is The Frog Prince, arguable the most well known of the bunch. My second thought was that Flinn's epilogue explaining all this really should have been a prologue.
Flinn writes a believable and likable male lead (in all three of the novels I've read this is true...now that I think about it), most side characters are fairly flat and one-dimensional but that actually works in the stories-since the protagonist is pretty self-absorbed. In fact, he's so self-absorbed that he can't figure out the obvious romantic feelings a certain girl has when the reader knows it from page one (oh wait, is this a YA trope?). Or apparently recognize obviously dodgy behavior in others...but I guess it keeps the plot moving.
Johnny's adventures take him from Florida to the Keys then across the nation and into a vaguely defined European country with the aid of a magic cloak. But capturing the frog he's after requires a bit more than a cloak that can transport you where ever you wish to go. In fact it requires the aid of six swans, a fox, a rat, a magical ring, a best friend, and a surprisingly lax mom.
Nevertheless Johnny's trials reveal his own ambitions and emotions while giving him a clearer sense of self and self-worth...which he uses to become a celebrity of sorts by the books conclusion.
Cloaked suffers just a bit from Harry Potter Syndrome...the conclusion just takes it too far and wraps it up too completely to make it a satisfying read.
Recommendation: If you are a fan of fairy tales and fairy tale retellings I would give it a go. If you like whimsical YA you may enjoy Cloaked. However, it's certainly not the best of either category and suffers a bit in the character development and conclusion.
Random Quote: "I'm in. I won. I don't need the fox or the inn or anything. I'm not going to get shot at. I just have to catch the frog, something any little boy can do. For once in my life, something is easy! (106)"
Similar Reads: Beastly and A Kiss in Time both by Alex Flinn, My Mother She Killed Me My Father He Ate Me edited by Kate Bernheimer, The Rose and the Beast by Francesca Lia Block
Flinn, Alex. Cloaked. New York: HarperTeen, 2011.