In Anne Ursu’s The Real Boy, Oscar isn’t very normal. For one thing: he hates being around people, just regular people, normal humans. The forest is the only place where he feels at home. Other than being shy, Oscar is also an intelligent eleven year-old. He taught himself to read and he knows how to make a healing salve, no problemo. He has lived a life of being teased and bullied by Wolf, his master’s apprentice, and people at his foster home in the East. He speaks in whispers and wonders: Why me?
It all started with a country in a big continent. The country had magic protecting all its walls, and a big trading business with other countries. Wizards lived here, and weaved in with simple towns people. When they were about to die, they planted their feet in the soil and grew into trees. But the wizards died out, right after the country was struck by the Plague. Then came the sorcerers, then magicians. This is the time when Oscar lives. He does everything on a schedule, and nothing else. He is a hand (servant) for a powerful magician named Caleb in the Barrow, near to the Shining City, where the duke lives. All the people in the Shining City are perfect, and buy all their magical ointment and amulets and things in the Barrow. After the shocking and awful death of Wolf and disappearance of Master Robinson’s apprentice, Oscar meets Callie, the healer’s apprentice. They become close friends, and teach each other things, like names of herbs, and how to be respectful to strangers. But then the perfect children of the Shining City fall ill, and Caleb and Madam Mariel (the healer) are gone. Only Callie, and maybe Oscar will be able to save them. Is Oscar ready to reach out and accept the adventure he has in front of him? But, why is the city so–sparkly? Or is there just a flaw in history?
I really liked all the detail Anne Ursu used. For example, “There was a purple wound blossoming on her side.” This example made me feel as if I was in the moment. I also find her characters very unique and very well done. Every important character has a signature move. Callie’s is raising her eyebrows; Oscar’s is not looking people in the eye and concentrating on small things.
The type of reader that would love this book should be into fantasy and be on a higher level of reading. I say this because the main purpose of the book is about how magic affects the city and how Oscar lives with it, and the book is quite thick and contains certain sophisticated words and description. Such as, “Caleb was nothing but a shell, a lifeless shell.” I really liked this book and living in the world of Oscar and Callie.