In honor of Book Lover’s Day (which is apparently today), I’ve decided to recycle one of my old book blogs. I used to have a blog about book suggestions called “The Bookwyrm’s Bookshelf,” but I couldn’t keep up with it. Still, there were a few good books I was able to put out there. Here is one of my favorites, “Now You See It…” by Vivan van Velde.
This book has a special significance to me. After my grandfather died, I sought this book out, digging through the Barnes and Nobles online marketplace to find a gently used copy, since it’s apparently out of print. The book is about Wendy, a modern high school girl with glasses, and a grandmother with Alzheimer’s. Can you see where I find the appeal?
Now You See It… begins with Wendy’s mom, Jeanette, driving her home from her eye doctor’s appointment. Wendy stubbornly refused to wear the paper sunglasses the eye doctor gave her to help with her dilated pupils and is essentially stumbling around blind as she tries to peek out from under her lids to get indoors. That’s how she catches the glint of something in her lawn and finds a pair of mirrored sunglasses that fit her prescription exactly. Her mother packs the tacky glasses in Wendy’s school bag the next day, and it’s a good thing since Wendy’s bus gets caught in an accident-induced traffic jam that sends Wendy’s glasses flying under a boy’s Adidas.
Forced to wear the tacky glasses to school, Wendy begins seeing weird things, starting with dead people. She sees the woman from the accident get up and walk into the light, then sees the spirit of another accident who starts talking to her. Of course she doesn’t quite comprehend what’s going on at first, but the starts thinking that it’s some kind of government secret service gadget. Until she sees little blue people wreaking mischievous havoc at her high school and sees the head cheerleader, the most gorgeous girl at school, become a hideous hag. Then she thinks she’s just going crazy. She goes to the nurse’s office to catch a breath and ends up talking to Julian York, an average and kind student, suddenly realizing that he looks so much more attractive under the influence of the glasses. That’s when she sees his pointed ears. Things get worse when Tiffanie, the cheerleader crone, sees how she looks through the lenses, and Wendy sees her talking to Julian about it.
When Tiffanie and Julian try to get on Wendy’s bus, Wendy quickly ditches before they can follow her and joins her step-sister Gia on a different base. There she takes shelter at Westfall Nursing Home, lurking in the background as she and Gia visit their grandmother, Helen. Wendy gets caught reminiscing of when her grandmother was younger, unplagued by Alzheimer’s, and she can’t stand being in the same room with the old woman who stares blankly at the wall. She goes down to the lobby to recover from the pain and sees Julian enter, and she panics. She runs into the nursing home’s yard, followed closely by Julian, and she runs through a stone archway. She’s surprised to find herself suddenly in a thick wood and ducks off the path to hide. Julian is not too far behind her, but he gets ambushed by a group of elves. Wendy watches in quiet terror as the elves start dragging away a very badly beaten Julian, then trap/kill one of the tiny blue men that tried to mess with them.
Once the elves drag Julian away, Wendy comes out of hiding to see if the little blue man had really been killed or just badly wounded. He turns out to be perfectly fine, if a little rude and crude, and he introduces himself as Larry the spreenie. He becomes the unwanted but useful companion, giving Wendy half-understood explanations of how the stone gateway works and half-heeded instructions on how to get back home. Wendy lets her mind wander as she crosses the threshold and ends up walking into a street in 1953. A beautiful, brave girl pulls her out of the way of an oncoming car, but the yank sends Wendy’s sunglasses flying into the path of the car and they break. The girl introduces herself as Eleni, the Greek form of Helen. Wendy is shocked when she realizes that Eleni is her grandmother as a teenager, but wisely decides to remain anonymous. Eleni is clever enough to guess that some kind of time-travel was involved in Wendy’s appearance, even guesses that Wendy is somehow related to her, and names Wendy “Jeanette” since Wendy refused to give her real name. Wendy tells Eleni as much as she can about the situation, and Eleni suggests that Wendy was wrong to abandon Julian, and that he may not have been the bad guy.
Upon hearing this, Larry, who is invisible without the sunglasses, uses a water fountain to signal Wendy of his presence. He returns the single surviving lens but becomes unfortunately infatuated with Eleni. Eleni and Larry convince Wendy to go back to rescue Julian, and they go back to the portal at the non-existent nursing home, attracting a particularly nasty German Shepherd. The dog chases the three through the portal, where they literally run into Tiffanie. Tiffanie freezes and lectures the dog, befriending him and convincing him not to eat any of them. Tiffanie freaks when Wendy tells her that Julian has been taken captive, and she becomes the moving force in rescuing him. Tiffanie quickly fills Wendy and Eleni in on the recent elf history of the royal house, revealing Julian to be the elf king’s son and heir. Larry tells them as much as he knows about Julian’s kidnapping, including that it was Julian’s cousin, Berrech, who kidnapped him, and how Berrech had set up shop in Dragon’s Cove. They unfortunately assume that that’s where Julian is being held captive, and they begin their journey to rescue the elf prince.
They travel through the fairy realm, which Larry tells them is called Kazaran Dahaani, disguised as three beautiful shepherdesses (Tiffanie being the most beautiful), a barking sheep (the dog, Brave Heart), and a wren. They make it without too much incident to Dragon’s Cove and quickly concoct a plan. Larry goes to spy on the elves, coming back to give the girls what they’re up against, which is six elves, including Berrech and his father Vediss, and an imprisoned dragon. Tiffanie disguises Wendy as a shadow and she sneaks into the cave to convince the dragon to help them as well as unlock the cage Julian is trapped in while the others separate the other elves using various decoy maneuvers. The dragon spots Wendy almost immediately, and he figures out her plan just as quickly. He silently proves that he is willing to cooperate with them, even covering for her when she accidentally draws the enemy elves’ attentions. Unfortunately, all their plans fall apart when Larry catches sight of Berrech using another pair of sunglasses to disguise himself as Julian. The spreenie gives the whole plan away, then, realizing his mistake, flees. The dragon flames at the elves to keep them away while Wendy finds the key, but before she can unlock either dragon or prince, one of the elves returns with a knife to Eleni’s throat. Brave Heart leaps in, giving Eleni the chance to break free from the elf’s grip. Wendy tosses Julian the key to his cell, and he tackles his cousin, wrestling for possession of a knife that was thrown at Wendy. The tussle ends when the dragon is finally freed and he offers to eat Berrech and Vediss as punishment for their traitorous crimes. Julian convinces Wendy to keep the dragon from feasting, and instead, the dragon takes the two elves to muck out the dragon’s caves.
They all go to return to their own times, Tiffanie escorting Eleni back to 1953 with the hopes of buying Brave Heart. Meanwhile, Julian escorts Wendy back to her time, and he goes with her to visit her grandmother, Helen. The ending of this book makes me cry, and I don’t want to ruin it for you, so go read it yourself.
This book is set in a modern high school mindset, so there are some minor sexual inferences (like old crone Tiffanie not wearing a bra) scattered throughout the tale. The d-expletive is also used twice, and the character Larry is rude and crude (but also very sarcastic and very funny). The story itself is sound and powerful. I first read it when I was 16, and it meant enough for me to hunt it down almost eight years later. If you’ve never read it, check it out!
Van Velde, Vivian. Now You See It… Orlando: Magic Carpet Books, 2005.
Author: Vivian Van Velde
Recommended Reading Age: 12+
Favorite Character: Eleni/Helen
Favorite Scene: When Wendy is sneaking into the cave to talk to the dragon, and the dragon has already figured out the plan and is trying to convey his willingness to help without tipping off Berrech and Vediss.
Favorite Quote: “No,” Larry said, “baby dragons grow on baby dragon bushes and are plucked by storks, then delivered to happy dragon mommies and daddies. No dragons involved. Nuh-uh. Rated PG. Definitely.”