Garber steals the show with the 2017 most anticipated YA novel, ‘Caraval’

By Kinda Badlissi

Stephanie Garber Official Facebook Page
Stephanie Garber Official Facebook Page

Scarlett, the protagonist of the novel “Caraval,” by Stephanie Garber, is a young woman who has always wished for a simple and happy life surrounded by the ones she loves. After growing up and hearing her grandmother’s bedtime stories about the elusive Caraval, an annual week-long performance where the audience participates in the show, her biggest dream is to attend this circus herself. Caraval’s location in the book is supposedly far away from Scarlett’s hometown, which is why the need for a sailor to take her across the sea develops.

Caraval is not your average circus where animals jump through rings of fire, or acrobats careen through the air. Caraval is an interactive game where participants compete to make it out alive. Garber’s debut novel is a unique story that is filled with some unconventional obstacles and unexpected twists.

Garber’s style of writing makes the story distinctive because as readers follow her twisting plot on a journey through the novel it becomes clear that “Caraval” is incomparable. It encompasses many aspects of popular young adult books such as fantasy, romance, mystery and science-fiction.

Unfortunately for Scarlett, with an abusive father, an absent mother and an arranged marriage weighing on her, Caraval has always seemed like a far-away dream. Coupled with the discouraging elements of her dysfunctional family is the fact that admission to Caraval requires a personal invitation from the game’s mastermind, Legend. But this year, there’s promise in the air.

Due to the arrival of a mysterious sailor in her homeland, Scarlett has the opportunity to be whisked away alongside her younger sister Tella to the show.

However, the air of opportunity is quickly snuffed out when they arrive. Practically upon their arrival, Tella is kidnapped in an act that is later revealed as part of this year’s challenge in the game. Legend reveals that whoever finds Tella first will be the winner of this year’s game. Scarlett is then forced to enter the game in order to save her sister and make it out alive.

As the game begins, Scarlett finds herself tangled in a web of magic, love, trickery and heartbreak. Is it possible for her to make it out unscathed? Only time will tell.

Scarlett is equal parts fascinating and influential as the novel progresses. She resembles a relatable young adult who is tasked with a heavy burden to make the right choice.

Each character in “Caraval” adds something different and personal to the novel. A goody two-shoes, a rebellious teenager, a mysterious sailor, an abusive father, and many more provide an interesting cast of characters to the plot. None of the characters were simply good or bad. Their complex identities keep you rooting for them through their personal feats and triumphs.

The time period for the novel is kept somewhat a mystery since it blends aspects of past and present fashion, etiquette and overall ambience.

“Caraval” is an easy read that keeps readers on the edge of their seat. The concept of Caraval itself was an extremely clever idea because it kept the readers alert at all times. While reading I found myself thinking, “are the events taking place part of an act or are they happening in real time?”

Since Caraval is intended to be a performance-based show, it’s up to the readers to bust out their thinking caps and decipher between who’s a character in the novel, who’s partaking in the game as an opponent and who’s an actor in the performance. This novel grants the reader the opportunity to become an interactive audience member while playing detectives as a part-time job.

The novel’s overarching theme is about sacrificing your dreams for loved ones and risking your safety for family. It teaches valuable lessons while remaining an amusing young adult novel.

“Caraval” is Garber’s first novel in her duology, set to release on Jan. 31, 2017. The screen rights to “Caraval” have already been purchased by Twentieth Century Fox for plans to make it into a major motion picture, and it received Goodreads’ number one 2017 young adult debut accolade.

Kinda Badlissi can be reached at [email protected]