The Mime

Young Adult - Fantasy - General
373 Pages
Reviewed on 04/02/2023
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite

The Mime by Tommy Tutalo is a fantasy novel about a young girl named Florina without the ability, or will, to speak. Except for the mother figure in her life, most write her off as being in desperate need of professional help. Florina is passed around from specialist to specialist who employ an array of strategies, the standout being an art therapist who decided Florina was not for her when Florina created an image of a woman face down in the water. Florina's imagination flourishes within the recesses of her expressive mind and it is in there that she finds a place accepting of her, a place where she talks, and a place where she is needed - but also a place of darkness and danger, where the imagery of a woman with her face down in the water and others of the same ilk feel more real than imaginary.

After reading the prologue I wondered whether the mime in The Mime might end up being Florina herself, but Tommy Tutalo is not an author who gives readers a predictable plot. There is nothing about the story that is familiar or creatively recycled. The landscape of Oaxaca, Mexico is like a firework display on paper and the magic on stage is so bright that when it gives way to the darkness of a shadow man and Trickster who steals it all, it is that much more horrifying. The contrast is stark. In the parts where Tutalo sprinkles the lightness of magic it is exhilarating, and reading about it being sucked away is scary. It is also perfect because the journey of Florina and the mime, who is an important character, but one of several in a parallel world who have had what amounts to their essence, their souls, ripped away from them, is a reminder that what we love is intrinsically linked to who we are, and its loss is devastating. Fighting to get it back, however, is beautiful.

K.C. Finn

The Mime is a work of fiction in the fantasy adventure subgenre. It is intended for the young adult reading audience but can also be enjoyed by adult readers and was penned by author Tommy Tutalo. In this heartfelt and poignant adventure, we follow our young protagonist Florina as she takes it upon herself to help the titular character, a mime whose voice has been stolen by an evil magician. As the real world of Oaxaca, Mexico, and the alternate reality of magic and danger combine, Florina must face her fears and find her own true voice along the way.

I adored this story from start to finish for many reasons, but the inclusivity and emotional sensitivity of the story were an absolute standout feature that fans of diverse YA fiction will adore. The panel illustrations by artist María Gabriela Guevara Sánchez were always an absolute delight, too, for a reader to suddenly find a key moment or character coming to life in a way that’s engaging but never distracting from author Tommy Tutalo’s gorgeously imaginative prose. What results is a lavish and atmospheric work that takes cultural themes and ideas from Mexico and layers a complementary idea of magical realism over the top, so much so that the lines blur, and everything feels real in the highs and lows Florina experiences on her adventure. Overall, I would definitely recommend The Mime for fans of immersive fantasy novels with impactful dialogue, characters that are easy to relate to, and a vibrant, poignant plot with emotional messages you’ll recall for a long time after reading.

Jamie Michele

In the fantasy mid-grade novel The Mime by Tommy Tutalo, readers are introduced to a young protagonist named Florina, whose muteness is classed as a medical and mental health issue, but is not even remotely close to the way she views it - something of a blessing in a world with far too much chatter as it is. Florina has another secret. Fragments of memory paint a picture of a past she feels that she should know, but doesn't until it presents itself with the introduction of a mime. In another realm where, once upon a time, magic brought happiness, and performers and artists were free to offer up their talent to an audience who adored them for it, the Trickster has stolen more than just the genius of others. Little Florina has visions of loss, is plagued by a shadow man, and must navigate her way through contrasting worlds. In one she is an outcast, but in another, she is not, having found a tribe worth facing her gravest fears for.

What a fantastic read The Mime is! There is so much depth and color that come to life in places where doom and gloom are the only things the characters can see, which is a testament to Tommy Tutalo's skill as a genuinely gifted writer. The characters are thoroughly and wonderfully developed, and each has its own neat little space in Florina's story. We meet and get to know Florina's friends and makeshift family, and the backstory of Vira, the musician, Piddle Pat Dee, Tittle Tat Dee, as well as the mime are woven into Florina's tale with restraint at exactly the right moments. The Trickster is a perfect antagonist, a despot who has stolen everything to fill his cup of ineptitude. I took my time reading this novel to my children, a chapter a night, and we were all engrossed by it. My older child could not wait to find out what happens and I found her reading ahead - something she never does. This book is a gem and highly recommended.