A few months ago, I discovered Alex Flinn. Apparently, she's written a bunch of books, but I had never heard of her for whatever reason. I read <a href="http://www.amazon.com/A-Kiss-Time-Alex-Flinn/dp/0060874198%3FSubscriptionId%3DAKIAJ3XCC7GLJWZDXC2A%26tag%3Dbook0dc0-20%26linkCode%3Dsp1%26camp%3D2025%26creative%3D165953%26creativeASIN%3D0060874198">A Kiss in Time</a> a few months ago and found it charming, so I grabbed Cloaked off the shelf at the library while wandering amidst a sea of YA paranormal romance.
Cloaked is the story of Johnny Marco, a sixteen year-old kid who puts in sixteen hour days at his mom's shoe repair shop at a swanky hotel in Florida. Mom works two jobs to stay poor while Johnny upsells wealthy businessmen who have Shoe Emergencies. The height of Johnny's social excitement is digging up new shoe-related quotes with his best friend, Meg, whose family owns a bakery across the street. Then one day, a princess comes to town and a few weeks later, stumbles in drunk with a broken shoe and a request: please find my brother, who has been turned into a frog, and I'll pay you megabucks and marry you.
So Johnny's off on an adventure through a couple of Grimm's minor fairy tales, armed with special earbuds that let him hear animals, a sense of honor, and a magic cloak powered by wishes. Through it all, he wonders if he can marry a princess for her cash. Many madcap shenanigans later, he gets a different happy ending than he anticipated, and one that's much more satisfactory from a reader's standpoint.
Here's the thing I really love about Alex Flinn's books so far: her protagonists have life goals. They tend to have a sense of purpose and a very specific desire to do something outside the mainstream. In A Kiss in Time, the protagonist wanted very much to be a landscape architect. In Cloaked, Johnny designed shoes. He spent a good portion of the novel wondering how he could convince Princess Victoriana to be a spokesperson for his shoes. I love YA novels in which the heroes have an aspiration, bonus points if it's more specific than to read a lot of Jane Austen and date a special sparkly sunshine flower.
I also love that these goals are not typical "boy" goals, centered around making tons of money and defeating something or someone in the process. The audience for Flinn's books is going to be largely female, and I can't help but think that it's good for them to see a male character headed toward an artsy profession which may challenge their gender conception. Girls can be real estate sharks and guys can be designers. It's refreshing to see.
Basically, I sat down and read this book in one sitting. It was fun, and I'd recommend it for sure.