Wilce, Ysabeau S. (2007). Flora Segunda. New York: Harcourt. 448 pgs.
Eleven-thousand rooms. In one house that is alive and whose life is tied to the magical butler. This magical djinn-like creature tempts Flora Segunda to give him some of her anima, or life force in order to help her with her abundant chores. One would think that having a butler would alleviate Flora from performing household chores; however, Flora's mother, a high-ranking army officer, banished the butler, leaving the housekeeping to Flora. Flora's complex world becomes more complicated as she approaches her 14th birthday, losing anima, maintaining the house, taking care of her angry drunken father and grappling with wanting to have a different future than is mapped out for her by her mother and her family's traditions.
The summary for this novel sounds INCREDIBLY depressing. If taken outside of the fantastic world-building offered by Wilce, it would be. Fortunately the fantastical elements create an atmosphere that makes the events of this novel easier to swallow. Flora has friends, she is intelligent and motivated to become a ranger despite her family's tradition of joining the army. While she appears to be doomed to a despondent future, she takes action in the end and approaches the matriarch of her family with her desires and ideas. Flora's sarcasm and dark humor regarding her situation makes the misery of the novel palatable and even fun. I know this sounds ironic when contrasted with the dark summary in the first paragraph, but Flora is able to present the gloom of her life in a hopeful light.
The world-building in Flora Segunda is complex with many names and complicated places both in the real world and withing the magical world. A standard book talk to hook young readers into this novel would NOT be effective. Reading select passages highlighting Flora's humor, sarcasm and irony. These elements best represent the feel of the novel and can show young adult readers that there is humor in the worst situations.