by Alex Flinn
Fans of Flinn’s earlier works like Breathing Underwater, Nothing to Lose, Breaking Point, and even Beastly, might be disappointed with this work which was clearly drafted for a much younger audience. Johnny Marco is a cobbler and wannabe shoe designer who works in an upscale South Beach Hotel shoe shop. Johnny’s dad disappeared when he was a toddler, and so he slaves over shoe repairs all day, every day, to help provide for himself and his mother. Johnny figures his future will be the same dreary life-sentence until one day a stunning princess visiting Florida offers him thousands of dollars and a promise to marry Johnny if he will find her missing brother. But first, he must believe that her brother has been turned into a frog by an evil witch, that magic is real, and that he can actually find a frog before the evil witch discovers his plan. Bored, and with nothing else to do, he agrees to the quest, only to find that the world is not always as it seems. The quest has adequate challenge scenes, and mildly interesting spins on traditional fairy tales. However, the loosely-linked tales feel a bit forced, like they have been jammed into an outline form with heavy-handed, unnatural connections between them. Johnny is an extremely shallow character, and his friend Meg seems only slightly better. Fans of stories shaped by action who care little about theme, character development, and originality will love this story. Otherwise, stick with Flinn’s earlier works.