Book Review: Cassidy Jones and the Secret Formula

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(Republished from Goodreads)

I’ll begin with a disclaimer: I rarely read books in this genre and, outside of Harry Potter, I don’t think I’ve read any series. According to the author’s website, her motivation was “to create a series that will motivate girls to value individualism, courage, integrity and intelligence,” so I will also have to disclose that I am not a teenage girl.

This is why when I say I can’t wait for the next installment, you should be impressed.

The focus of the book is obviously Cassidy Jones. Cassidy is a vivid, complex character who has fantastic, bizarre things happen to her but always remains an authentic human being. The plot and the other characters serve more as a background to the more important journey as Cassidy’s growth as a young woman. I’m sure the other characters will gain dimension as the series progresses, but in creating Cassidy, Elise Stokes has created a much more interesting hero for her series than Mr. Potter and Cassidy’s journey is more relevant to our lives and times. Cassidy moves through mood swings, back-and-forth, one step forward, two steps back, crashes and falls, makes sudden turns, changes her mind, makes decisions and regrets decisions . . . in other words, she is a genuine non-linear human being like many teenagers (and like many adults, who are better at building facades to hide their human inconsistencies). Cassidy also makes mistakes, says dumb things and exhibits numerous flaws. She’s human, and the reader can’t help but develop a strong connection with her.

The contrast with the Potter books is just that. Harry Potter is more about the world Ms. Rowling created and a struggle of ideologies; Cassidy Jones is more about what it means to be a real human being at a time of life when possibilities are endless and endlessly confusing. While there are hints of that theme in the Potter novels, Ms. Stokes is more successful with it.

The book is definitely a page-turner (I finished it in three days while sneaking in some reading sessions at work) and features frequent bursts of ironic humor to keep the reader’s perspective in check. The five-star rating I’m giving this book takes into account the fact that this is the first in a series and should be judged on that basis. The book does have flaws here and there, primarily having to do with Cassidy as narrator. Being narrator and hero of the book is quite a heavy load to carry and sometimes Cassidy-the-narrator speaks with too much sophistication and too rich a vocabulary for a 14-year old girl. It might be interesting to relieve her of the narration duty in future installments, or perhaps use the dual-narrator approach that Dickens used in Bleak House.

These are minor distractions that even the great novels contain. Ms. Stokes is off to a fabulous start in her journey “to create a series that will motivate girls to value individualism, courage, integrity and intelligence,” but I think Cassidy Jones has the potential to transcend that limitation and appeal to all people, regardless of age or gender.

Cassidy Jones and the Secret Formula by Elise Stokes is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The next book in the Cassidy Jones Adventures series, Vulcan’s Gift, is scheduled for release in November 2011.

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