Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow
This is a delightful fantasy of a misfit 11-year-old in an alternate England who has to prove herself.
Morrigan grows up being told she is unlucky and cursed, and believes it. Then a mysterious stranger saves her from a preordained death and takes her to Nevermoor, a fantastic place where she lives in an exotic hotel, populated by creatures like dwarf vampires, ghosts, and a giant, talking cat with an attitude (like any cat).
She loves it, but the catch is that she must compete to become a member of the Wundrous Society, the top-notch benevolent organization in Nevermoor. These “trials” are nerve-racking because she feels unprepared and untalented, but she makes a friend who helps. The message is to just be yourself and be good to others and you will succeed in life.
The writing was wonderful, with great characters, good descriptions, and very good pacing. But the audiobook version was absolutely fabulous; I highly recommend listening to this one if you are able. Narrator Gemma Whelan was outstanding; there are tons of accents, not all human, and she nailed them.
Fun for all ages, tween and over, but marketed to middle grades.