The third book in Catherynne M. Valente's Fairyland series, The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two, may be the best of the lot. (I reviewed the first two books here and here.) September, the young Nebraska girl who is our protagonist, is growing older and growing up. She desperately wants to return to Fairyland, but she's also anxious about her future there and at home. She doesn't know what she wants to do with her life, what she'll be when she grows up, and she's certain this is something she needs to figure out as soon as possible. She's insecure and uncertain, and when she's once again whisked off to Fairyland, she feels even more out of place than she has before. Even when she's reunited with her dear friends A-L the Wyverary (the child of a wyvern and a library) and Saturday the Marid, she feels lost and confused and frightened. She throws herself into another quest, moving once again through the lush, gorgeous, whimsical, high-imagination landscape Valente has created, but this time September is also dealing with new complications and new emotions.
Growing up isn't easy, and Valente doesn't treat it lightly. For all of the story's whimsy, there are also large amounts of wisdom about the pain and insecurity of growing up, falling in love, and finding one's place in the world. The whole Fairyland series is one of the most beautiful, enchanting, moving series I've ever read. This is real magic, and Valente weaves it with skill and grace.