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Book Review of The Candy Shop War (Book #1) by Brandon Mull
My kids love reading just as much as I do! Over the years I have tried to keep up with them. When they were really little, I could definitely take the time to preview all the books they read. As they got older, it became more difficult to keep up with them because as a mom I have a lot on my plate. That was the reason I started this website—I knew other moms had the same problem. One of my shortcuts was to allow my kids to read books by authors I had already read and felt comfortable with. Brandon Mull was one of those authors. His Fablehaven series was great, and I was comfortable with the content. When The Candy Shop War series came out, I purchased the books and allowed my kids to read them without a second thought…in fact, we even went to a book signing and had Brandon Mull sign our book.
Magical candy that gives kids superpowers? Sweet! The possibility of evil overtaking the world? Not so tasty. And so begins The Candy Shop War, a trilogy from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Beyonders and Fablehaven series.
Welcome to the Sweet Tooth Ice Cream & Candy Shoppe, where the confections are a bit on the…unusual side. In this start to the series, four young friends—Nate, Summer, Trevor, and Pigeon—meet the grandmotherly Mrs. White, owner of the Sweet Tooth, and soon learn about the magical side effects of her candies: Rock candy that makes you weightless. Jawbreakers that make you unbreakable. Chocolate balls that make you a master of disguise.
In addition, the ice cream truck driver, Mr. Stott, has arrived with a few enchanted sweets of his own. But what about the mysterious man in the dark overcoat and fedora hat? And why are all these “magicians” trying to recruit Nate and his friends? Who can they trust?
The mystery deepens and the danger unfolds as the four of them discover that the magical strangers have all come to town in search of a legendary, hidden treasure—one that could be used for great evil if it fell into the wrong hands. The kids, now in over their heads, must try to retrieve the treasure first. And so, the war begins…
My Book Review:
Now, many years later, after all four of my kids have already read it, I have learned my lesson. Yeah, sadly you can’t always trust those authors. I feel terrible that I trusted and allowed my children to read this book. The Candy Shop War is a well-written book with fun characters and lots of action. My boys and one daughter loved it. My other daughter, however, had the same thoughts I did when she read it.
The premise of The Candy Shop War is that a new candy shop opens up in town. The four main characters (children) love to go there on the way home from school. The owner is, of course, a stranger to them. She seems great and the candy is delicious. Then, one day she offers them some “different” candy that she doesn’t keep on the shelves—she takes them into her back room. They take this magical candy to their hideout and try it out. Oh yeah, it makes them float. Ok, I guess that’s kind of fun.
Well, it gets worse. In order to keep the fun, magical candy coming, the store owner, Mrs. White, makes these four children break into different places and steal objects she wants. Yes, you read that correctly. These children don’t want the magical candy to stop, so of course they sneak out at night and break into buildings to steal things for her. Each time they fulfill a “job,” she gives them a better, more fun type of magical candy and a more dangerous job.
Does this sound a little “sus,” as the kids these days say, to anyone else? It continues with the nice ice cream man also coming out with magical candy. He’s a little better than Mrs. White, but still has an agenda. When the kids begin to think something is off, they kind of side with Mr. Stott, the ice cream man. This makes Mrs. White angry, and she recruits another team. Now there are two teams of children breaking into buildings, stealing objects, and putting their lives at risk.
Another part of this is that Mrs. White sells this fudge to parents that is highly addictive, and it makes the parents act kind of like zombies. They don’t pay attention to anything their children do—the kids can stay out late, not come home, sneak out, etc. and the parents don’t even notice.
I may be conservative in what I allow my children to read, and maybe I’m off base here, but I do not like the premise of this book at all. The only reason I read it now was because the publisher wanted me to review book #3 when it came out earlier this year, and I hadn’t even read the first two yet. Needless to say, I will not be reading the last two books.
About halfway through the book I didn’t want to finish. I emailed the publisher and asked her if it got better. She assured me it did, and that the children learned some valuable lessons. So, I finished the book. Nope, it didn’t get any better. I picked up the second book, and it started off with the kids eating some magic candy so they could be braver biking down this steep hill. Nope. Red flags all over.
I’ve read other books where children do naughty things like Loot by Jude Watson, and I liked that book even though it made me cheer for the kids to steal things. For some reason, this book strikes me as a little more sinister in nature. I like Brandon Mull, and I don’t think he wrote this book with evil intentions, but the book does feel that way to me.
This book is for middle-graders, and I think even third graders could read it. Do you want your third grader reading about getting magic candy from a stranger that makes you braver? Or do you want her reading about being blackmailed into breaking the law in order to have said candy? My kids have read it, and they haven’t gotten into drugs or stolen anything, so that’s good, but I just don’t think it’s a great message to share. I also don’t think the lessons learned in The Candy Shop War outweigh the negative message.
Yes, I have strong thoughts on this book. Let me hop off my soapbox now. On the other hand, it is very imaginative, well written, has fun characters, and has tons of action. Middle-graders will probably love it like my kids did. Just maybe have a chat about stranger danger, taking candy from strangers, drugs, blackmail, always discussing things with your parents, etc.
Content Rating: PG+
- Profanity: None
- Intimacy: None
- Violence: Moderate (The children fight each other and bad guys, they break into buildings causing damage and injuries. A fairly graphic kidnapping.)
- Taking candy from strangers, candy making the kids do crazy things and making them braver, kids breaking into buildings and stealing objects because they’re being blackmailed.
Recommendation: Middle-Graders and up
My Rating: 2/5