Book Review: “The Key to Extraordinary” by Natalie Lloyd

The women in Emma’s family have always done remarkable things, whether it’s serving as a spy in the Revolutionary War, becoming a champion boxer, or being a renowned singer. The one thing all these women have in common, besides being extraordinary in their own way, is the Destiny Dream they have, which shows them the path to follow. Emma’s been waiting for her own Destiny Dream ever since her mother told her about them two years ago, before she died. The thing is, right about now would be a great time for Emma to find her destiny, preferably a profitable one, because Emma’s grandmother is running out of money to keep their small cafe open, and a greedy buyer is eyeing the property. Can Emma save her home and find her destiny?

The Key to Extraordinary is an absolutely charming book, and I’m not just saying that because it takes place in East Tennessee, where I’m from (okay, that’s probably part of it – but not all!). Lloyd’s creation of Blackbird Hollow, the small mountain town where Emma and her friends reside, is so whimsical and sweet it would be cloying if Lloyd didn’t manage to make it seem like so much fun to live there. In Blackbird Hollow, flowers bloom all year round, even in the winter, and there are even a few varieties that don’t bloom anywhere else in the world: Keeping Susans, which preserve anything they’re kept with, Telling Vines, in which you can whisper a message that the vine will pass on only to its intended recipient, and Starblooms, which have magical healing properties.

The short novel also has my personal golden ratio of protagonists – two girls and one boy. I feel like we so often see this formula reversed (like in our own beloved Harry Potter), that it’s a nice change for a group of friends to be dominated by a little bit of girl power, and Emma and her friend Cody Belle provide just that in their friendship with Earl Chance. Lloyd has so captured me in her world that I find myself almost wishing she’d bring this setting and these characters into more stories!

Ultimately, if you’re looking for a great middle grade book for your classroom, child, or niece/nephew and you don’t know what to get, The Key to Extraordinary is a great choice! It’s got a little bit of mystery, a little bit of magic, and a whole lot of heart. That’s a pretty wonderful combination, if I say so myself.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review.