I gave this a try because I wanted to see what McMann could do with an MG and a fantasy(lite) one at that, after the mess of her Wake and its sequels. Which showed promise. A bit.
This was for me an extremely juvenile book. And I do not use that term in a pejorative sense. Only that I think it will appeal mainly only to MG readers. I tried and was put-off by the tarty, treacly magical world the kids get shipped off to and the fact that everyone they left behind so willing accepts a system that supposedly is murdering your kids for having an imagination or artistic talent and they are just cool with that.
Government: So, we are killing Timmy for drawing in the dirt. And Sam here was humming. Clearly, they are bad eggs and must die for such heinous crimes.
Timmy's Dad: All righty, then. Off to go garden. (Never looks back.)
Sam's Mom: Well, darn nabbit. Always had a feeling he was a good for nothin'.
Timmy and Sam: We deserve this. We are so awful.
[All names have been changed.]
What?! Seriously? I am expected to take this story even remotely seriously? Not after that and certainly not once we arrive in the land of magic and goodness and extremely unhelpful adults keeping secrets and not ever trying to actually help their world. It annoyed me how they never tried to correct the kids who were mean to the others. The magic was frankly underwhelming. Argh.
On the other hand, my younger sister read this and did not hate it, so I think there may be something in our age gap that explains it.