Olive Peril

12-CoverWhat do you do when your soap-tycoon mother leaves you a fortune, but her evil lawyer wants to steal it by forcing you to marry him? (Who hasn’t had to ponder that question?) Well, if you’re Olive Peril, you run away. To outer space.

Not that Olive, a mostly-normal teen who works in a bakery, has exactly got this planned. She just knows she has to get away from her big bad betrothed. None of the other lawyers she’s visited can find a loophole in what has to be the most unfortunately-worded last will and testament ever, and it seems that when Olive turns eighteen, she really will have to marry her mother’s conniving lawyer. Then, one night, a creepy, ghostly girl appears in Olive’s bedroom, claiming she wants to save Olive from the marriage.

The ghostly girl instructs Olive to stall for time. Olive decides to stave off the wedding bells with a clever little act: transforming herself into a demanding Bridezilla. Unfortunately, this isn’t going to keep her slimy suitor at bay forever. Luckily, she doesn’t have to: just before the big day, the ghostly girl returns. Though short on explanations, the kid is long on mysterious powers: before she knows it, Olive is lost on what seems to be another planet. And she’s not alone.

The aliens who find Olive seem gentle and concerned, but since they don’t speak her language, the first thing they do is to put her in a kind of alien zoo. The ghostly girl, though, is there to bust Olive out, and takes her to an alien who does speak her language – and seems to know a surprising amount about her story so far. This alien is more than friendly: she equips Olive with a translator and is keen to have her attend an upcoming soiree. A ball, of a sort. Maybe the sort where you meet a prince.

The alien says she’s offering Olive a fairy tale, and maybe she is. But maybe Olive’s done letting other people choose what kind of story she’s living.

This slim paperback packs a lot of punch with its bold illustrations. Thick black outlines give the colorful drawings the look of stained glass. This adds gravity to what is a truly strange, and fun, story. The characters are distinctive and expressive – the aliens humanoid yet strange, the ghostly girl decked out with details that make her look like an eerie, glowing remix of an ordinary child. Olive herself is always framed by her swirling hair, making her elegant and ethereal whether she’s working at the bakery or navigating alien landscapes.

Olive is grounded, though, by the normalcy and humor of her behavior under even bizarre circumstances. Her interactions with her bakery coworkers are friendly and funny, and it’s easy to empathize with (and sometimes laugh at) her efforts to make sense of a ghostly would-be guardian and a sudden extraterrestrial relocation.

The story is brief and a little abrupt, though it includes some neat extras: concept sketches and extensive, entertaining information on the making of the book, down to the number of pens and markers that perished for the cause. A small note on the text: the commas look very much like the periods, which, since the text is in all caps, can be slightly confusing. Otherwise, though, the large, clear lettering supports an oddball adventure story that seems to be aimed at young teens, but is simple and mild enough that younger readers will likely enjoy it, too.

Olive Peril
by Laurel Shelley-Reuss
ISBN: 9781897548684
Arcana, 2009