This “clever opener likely to leave readers breathless both with laughter and anticipation” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) is the first in the New York Times bestselling series from the author of the Half Upon a Time trilogy.
Life is boring when you live in the real world, instead of starring in your own book series. Owen knows that better than anyone, what with the real world’s homework and chores.
But everything changes the day Owen sees the impossible happen—his classmate Bethany climb out of a book in the library. It turns out Bethany’s half-fictional and has been searching every book she can find for her missing father, a fictional character.
Bethany can’t let anyone else learn her secret, so Owen makes her a deal: All she has to do is take him into a book in Owen’s favorite Kiel Gnomenfoot series, and he’ll never say a word. Besides, visiting the book might help Bethany find her father…
…Or it might just destroy the Kiel Gnomenfoot series, reveal Bethany’s secret to the entire world, and force Owen to live out Kiel Gnomenfoot’s final (very final) adventure.
About the Author
James Riley lives in Virginia. He is the author of Half Upon a Time, Twice Upon a Time, and Once Upon the End as well as the Story Thieves series.
Vivienne To has illustrated several books, including The Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins and the Randi Rhodes, Ninja Detective series by Octavia Spencer. As a child, she had two pet mice escape. She currently lives in Sydney, Australia, with her partner and her ginger cat. Visit her at VivienneTo.com.
Read an Excerpt
Owen wanted to scream at the horror before him. But the sound wouldn’t come and the nightmare only continued, forcing Owen to ask himself, deep down, one question:
“Can anyone tell me what three-fourths times two-thirds is?”
Mr. Barberry stood at the board at the front of Owen’s classroom, his arms folded, waiting for a hand to raise.
No, not that question. The real question was this: Was there anything in the world that could possibly be more boring than fractions? Owen frowned as Mr. Barberry gave up on volunteers and just picked someone. “Mariá Three-fourths times two-thirds?”
Being locked in a room with no windows or doors, without anything to do, while wearing a blindfold and being forced to name various types of trees? That’d be pretty boring, but not fractions boring.
“One-half,” Mari answered, and Mr. Barberry nodded.
Maybe if someone gave you enough soda to keep you awake for hours, then read furniture building instructions to you? In another language?
Except what if you accidentally started to learn that foreign language without realizing it? That’d almost be considered worth it to some people. So that was instantly out.
“Owen?” Mr. Barberry said. “How about you? One-third times two-thirds.”
“Two-ninths?” Owen said, faking enthusiasm.
“That’s right,” Mr. Barberry said, and turned back to the board while Owen let his mind wander again.
Maybe being stuck home sick and too feverish to think or do anything except watch TV, and the only channel that came in was an infomercial for other infomercials. That would be pretty boring.
“One-third times one-third?” Mr. Barberry asked. “Gabriel?”
“One-ninth?” Gabriel answered, his eyes glazed over.
Nope, fractions still won. And by a lot.
If only the bell would ring early from some freak electrical surge. Sure, it had never happened before, but Owen was nothing if not optimistic. And that was something he was pretty proud of, since it wasn’t easy to be optimistic in the face of all these math problems.
“How about four-fifths times one-eighth?” Mr. Barberry asked. “Bethany, want to take this one?”
There was no answer, so Mr. Barberry turned around. “Bethany?”
Owen threw a look over his shoulder and saw Bethany hunched down behind her math book, her head not even visible. She wasn’t actually sleeping, was she? That’d be brave. Dumb, but brave.
Either way, at least something was happening, and that meant class got just a fraction less boring. Owen covered his smile with his hand. Fraction. Ha!
“Bethany!” Mr. Barberry shouted.
Bethany jerked back in her chair, and her math book tumbled forward, revealing something else behind it: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Mr. Barberry just glared at Bethany for a second as she looked around, a mix of confusion and fear on her face. Owen winced, waiting for Mr. Barberry to start yelling, but fortunately the bell rang right at that moment, releasing them for lunch.
“Okay, go,” Mr. Barberry said. “Everyone but you, Bethany.”
The girl nodded, her long bronze-colored hair falling forward over her face. Owen threw a sympathetic look back at her, then noticed something weird.
Was that chocolate on her chin?
But then the other students blocked his view, and he shrugged, not willing to chance getting yelled at too. Besides, lunch meant at least he had a half hour of no fractions.
After waiting in a lunch line that he’d have to remember to add to his list of the most boring things ever, Owen carried his tray of pizza and milk around the cafeteria, looking for a seat. He considered one table with some boys from his class, but they ignored him as he walked over, so he kept going, pretending he’d always meant to sit by himself.
That’s why he brought a book, anyway. Sitting by himself wasn’t exactly new.
Owen had read Kiel Gnomenfoot and the End of Everything twice now, but the seventh book in the series was coming out next week, so it couldn’t hurt to catch up. It’d been hard enough getting a copy out of the library anyway, despite the fact that his mother worked there. This was the book that ended with Dr. Verity surprise attacking the Magister, Kiel’s teacher, after all. Owen personally knew at least five people who had cried at the idea that the Magister might die. And ten people who called the series a Harry Potter rip-off, which it sort of was, but everyone still loved it.
As Owen started to read the last chapter, where Dr. Verity broke into the Magister’s upside-down tower, he saw Bethany stomp into the cafeteria out of the corner of his eye. She plopped down at a table on the other side of the room, then pulled out her book and looked around suspiciously. Then she dropped her head, ate something, and sat back up, glancing around again.
What was she was doing? Eating behind the book? Did she even have food? Was she—
Whoops. What she was now, was staring at him.
Owen immediately looked everywhere but at Bethany, but it was too late. She slammed her book closed, threw him a dirty look, then exited the cafeteria with an annoyed huff.
Owen sighed and dropped his own book onto the table. She was probably feeling embarrassed after getting yelled at and didn’t want anyone staring at her, which meant he’d just made things worse. Awesome.
His guilt pushed Owen up out of his seat and after Bethany to apologize or make a joke. Only, by the time he got to the hallway, there was no Bethany. In fact, the entire hallway was completely empty, except for the copy of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Bethany had just been reading, which now lay on the floor just beneath a locker.
Huh? Not only had she just left her book on the floor, but worse, Owen could tell even from a distance that it came from his mom’s library. That wasn’t even her book!
And were those chocolate stains on it?
That was not cool. What was Bethany thinking? Who checked out a book and got chocolate all over it, even if it, you know, fit the story? Other people wanted to read these books too, and didn’t want to have food stains on their copy.
Shaking his head, Owen grabbed the book and dropped it into his bag, then walked back into the cafeteria to get back to important things, like Dr. Verity’s attack on the Magister. Unfortunately, the bell decided to ring then—cruel, but expected. Owen sighed, threw away his garbage, and tromped back to another few hours of mind-numbing semi-learning.
Eventually, mercifully, the day ended, and Owen exploded out the front door like he was launched from a cannon. It felt so good to be out that he walked that much quicker to his mother’s library, where she worked almost every night. As usual, Owen would go by and help out where he could, mostly because she made him, but partly because it was just fun being around all the books.
He said hi to his mom, who was running around with too much to do, then took his usual spot at the front desk, where he checked people’s books out for a few hours. This job could be either interesting (seeing what people were reading), embarrassing (seeing what people were reading), or boring (seeing what people were reading). Usually it managed to cover at least two of the three every few minutes, and tonight was no different.
When things finally cooled down, Owen sighed and pulled out his homework, knowing that his mother, no matter how busy she was, would notice he wasn’t busy and make him do it anyway. Only, when he went to pull out his math book, there was Bethany’s copy of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in his bag.
Um, whoops. He’d sort of forgotten all about that. He’d picked it up meaning to give it back to Bethany and glare at her judgmentally for the chocolate stains. But now that he thought about it, had she even been in science after lunch? He couldn’t remember her being there, or in any other class that afternoon. Maybe she’d gone home sick after eating too much chocolate and using a library book as a napkin.
Owen shrugged and checked the book back in to the library. She knew where to find it if she wanted it again.
His mother caught him putting the book on a pile that was supposed to go back out onto shelves, and gave him a look. He sighed and stood up, knowing where this was going. “Those all go in the children’s section,” she said. “I’m locking up, but I have a few things to take care of in the office after that, so finish your homework when you’re done.”
Ugh. Of course. Owen picked up a pile of books about half as tall as he was, then walked them slowly back to the children’s section.
As usual, it was a mess, like a hurricane had plowed into a nuclear bomb right around the Rick Riordan books. Owen sighed and dug in, pulling a few interesting books aside as he noticed them. That was the only good part about cleanup—he’d sometimes find things that looked like a good read.
Ten minutes later the children’s section was at least cleaner, with random piles stacked on top of over-full shelves. Owen looked sadly at the stack of books he’d carried here to put back, then sighed again and picked up Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, knowing there’d be no room for it.
But then, as he found the D section for Roald Dahl, something weird happened. His hand . . . jumped.
He looked down at his hand and the book in it, thinking he’d just imagined the jolt.
The book in his hand jumped again.
“Gah!” he said, dropping the book. It smacked the floor hard and just sat there for a moment.
Then it jumped a third time.
What was happening? Owen backed away as the cover and a bunch of pages flipped open all by themselves. Was the book haunted? Was the entire library haunted? Was it okay to find that awesome even while being scared?
And then, the last thing in the world that Owen ever expected happened.
Five chocolate-covered fingers pushed right out of the center of the book, grabbed the edge, and began to pull themselves out.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I am 9 years old this is what I thought of Story Thieves: This book was so good I finished it in two days! Definetly a MUST READ!!!!!
I am amazed, and ready for the next book. Very well written. This book had me on a roller coaster of emotions. I loved every minute.
This story has so many hoocks and that is the best part
This is my fav. Book I recommend this to anyone who likes action packed adventures!!! I give it hundred million stars!!best book ever the whole series is amazing but this is best book yet!!!
I got the book ftom the libery and im reading it now!!! So far so good!!!!!- ZaneMasterOfIce739
This story will bring you into an adventure!!!its an amazing book
This book has a great plot, along with a bunch of great characters. This book is very unique. I have never read anything like it. Story Thieves is fast paced and exciting all the way through.
U suck. This book is AWESOME! >:( And if you dont like it kiss my butt!
Buy or Borrow (but Don’t Steal) This Story Real life is boring. That’s what Owen has decided, and he much prefers to live in the world of his favorite books, at least in his day dreams. And then he meets Bethany when he finds her crawling out of a book. Wait, what? Turns out she is half fictional and can jump into books. She’s spent years looking for her father, who disappeared into a book, and works very hard to stay out of the stories so no one learns about her abilities. But Owen has a plan. He wants to trick Bethany into jumping them into the climax of the sixth Kiel Gnomenfoot book, just in time to alter the cliffhanger, meet Kiel himself, and become a hero to the series legion of fans the world over. What could possibly go wrong? Turns out plenty, and as things spiral out of control, will Owen and Bethany be able to return things to normal? For a lifelong reader, this book was a delight since many books I read and enjoyed as a kid were mentioned during the set up part of the book. The main story revolves around characters and set up from the completely made up Kiel Gnomenfoot series, and that felt like the weakest part of this book. Still, that is a very minor complaint. The story moved forward at breakneck speed with Owen and Bethany separated for much of the book. We’d flash between them quite frequently and we were always left with cliffhangers. These two characters are strong and fun, and we meet some other great characters along the way. Olus there is some fun humor as well that just added to the enjoyment of the book. Having read the author’s previous trilogy, I was expecting humor, fun, and a great story. I wasn’t disappointed in the slightest. I’ll already looking forward to the next entry in what promises to be a great series.
I am the first review and I think it is amazing. I like Bethany, Charm and Owen. Also where are my thousand dollars? If I don't get a thousand dollars at least I want to be either Bethany or Charm in the movie if you make one.
This on three other books
I am a twelve year old girl who can read a 700 page book in one day. I am a book critic and particularly love fantasy and fiction books. I read books meant for young adults and teens. Is this a good series? Will i get attached to the characters. Will i buy this? Is it as good as the Keeper of the Lost Cities series? Reply to ShadowKnight with the answers to all these questions.
Ohmm! This book looks so good! Why does it cost so much? This is one of the billion times I wish I had an infinity money barnes and nobles gift cards!
For Owen, life is boring. He longs for something exciting to happen, like his favourite character Kiel Gnomenfoot, well he is in for a big surprise! When he is in the library helping his mother, he sees a book on the floor. Just as he goes to pick it up he sees the book moving and then, impossibly, a hand coming out of it. Next thing he knows, his classmate, Bethany pops out. He learns that Bethany is half fictional, her father popped out of a book and fell in love with her mother. When Bethany was little she accidentally jumped her whole party into a book and lost her father. She is afraid that something happened to him for him no to come back out and is now searching every and any book to find him. Owen cant believe the possibilities and is thrilled!! He tells Bethany that he will help her and he knows a spell that may help find her father, all they have to do is jump into the Kiel Gnomenfoot book and read the spell from the spell book. Bethany agrees on the condition that Owen follows the rules!! But can Owen follow the rules? What happens if he just says one thing to a character or tries to save someone? Well this was such a fun read!! This is my first book by this author but it wont be my last. The Story Thieves is an engaging and action packed read and one that all ages will enjoy. I loved the plot so much. Who wouldn't love to be able to actually jump into their favourite stories. Could you imagine how awesome that would be!!! The characters were a breath of fresh air. Bethany has a magical gift but she doesn't abuse it. She knows the rules and sticks to them. When Owen sees her and what she can do, she freaks at first but thinks that it might be nice to have a friend to help. She started out as so nervous but her character developed so much throughout the book. Owen was such a cutie, he was so fun to read. He wants to be like his favourite character Kiel but is it all its cracked up to be? When Bethany tells him the rules he cant see the harm of trying to save someone, whats the worst that can happen?? His name may appear in the book, which would be ultra cool, right!! Wrong. Owen sets things in motion that he cant control! Even when he messes up, Owen will do the right thing. I loved his enthusiasm and his joy of seeing the characters. The friendship in the book was awesome. Bethany and Owen start out slowly because Bethany is afraid he will think she is crazy. Then Bethany and Kiel are thrown together and have the world to save while Own is thrown into the fictional world and has to save that! Every character was well written and developed, even the fictional characters. I loved Kiel! He was such a snarky fun character even if he is fictional within the fictional story ;). The plot within the plot I enjoyed as well. I loved the Kiel Gnomenfoot books and would so read them! I loved the fact that we are dealing with two separate plots but both intertwine. It was a unique and fun thing to read. Overall The Story Thieves was a fast paced and fun read. I read it with my boys and they loved the idea of jumping into books. They were discussing what books they would love to visit and I loved that! Its a book within a book and while aimed at the middle grade audience there's still enough of a plot for everyone to enjoy.
Looks like a good book i wish i had money on this nook
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Bad Plot. Bad Characters. Bad Attitude. Waste of Time and Money. Would NOT recommend for anybody.