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NEVER TAKE CANDY FROM STRANGERS!
The Candy Shop War is a children's/young adult fantasy novel by Brandon Mull, who also wrote Fablehaven. If you're familiar with the latter, you probably know what you're in for here. But if not: Quirky, Genre Savvy
children's Young At Heart's Urban Fantasy with lively dialogue and a striking amount of darkness for what it is.
Cynical Nate is the new kid in the tiny town of Colson, California. On his first day, he has the good luck to fall in with the Blue Falcons, a group of friends with a nondescript club (It's gone from treasure-hunting to tresspassing and more). Clever Trevor, fearless Summer, and brainy Pigeon (real name: Paul) quickly come to like snarky Nate, and accept him into the club after he charges local bullies Denny, Kyle, and Eric. Nate isn't the only new thing in town, though: There's also a new candy shop, the Sweet Tooth Ice Cream and Candy Shoppe. The kids stop in for some candy after a rough first day at school, and are pleased to find that the shopkeeper, Ms. White, is as kindly as she is good at making candy. But she accidentally lets slip word of "Secret Candy." What's this now? She promises she'll tell them if they ask again after getting to know her more. So they do a few chores for her shop. She gives them a "special assignment:" Go get some beetle eggs in mushrooms. They do, and she gives them a taste.
The "special candy" is magical. The first confection she gives them: Moon Rocks, which allow the person eating them to jump great distances. She's a magician, and she manufactures these magical sweets. But she's not the only one in town. To say nothing of the guy who shows up in town to hunt down magicians...
It's hard to give away too much more without spoiling a great deal. Suffice to say, if the cutesy premise (magical candy that gives kids superpowers!) sounds sweet and fluffy... Don't be fooled. Things will get much, much worse before the end, and our four Kid Heroes will quickly find themselves in far over their head...
There is a sequel, The Arcade Incident, planned for sometime in the future. Originally, Mull planned the novel to be stand-alone. However, fan-love swayed him into thinking about a sequel, and he now says he thinks he can do a satisfactory one. So who knows what fate awaits Nate, Trevor, Summer, and Pigeon?
This book provides examples of:
- Adults Are Useless: The parents are under the effects of white fudge, so they can't help even when Nate realizes he might need them. Subverted later on with Mr. Stott and John Dart.
- Ambiguously Brown: Trevor. He's described as "olive-skinned," and his mother is somewhat darker. He's not white, because when he eats an ethnicity-swapping Melting Pot Mixer, he's turned into a freckly redhead. But he could be anything, really.
- Amnesiac Dissonance: Linda isn't such a bad kid.
- Anti-Hero: John.
- Badass Longcoat: Justified, in a sense, for John, as he's never really outgrown his 1920's mobster fashion sense.
- Bad Future
- Blank Slate: The villain literally becomes this as a way of defeating her.
- Blob Monster
- Body Horror: The Flatman. Unholy combination of man and flounder, floating in formaldahyde. * shudder* The Slopgut probably counts, too.
- Bound and Gagged: Happens to quite a lot of poeple later in the book, both hero and villain, kid and adult. As in, it happens to both good adult characters and bad ones, the kid heroes and the bullies. Yup.
- Brick Joke: In the very first chapter, John complains about needing a better job. The final chapter is entitled, "Better Jobs for John." Geriatric nurse, cab-driver, coyote-caretaker, babysitter...
- Catch Phrase: Pigeon's "I just like to read books about [INSERT TOPIC HERE]!"
- ~Chekhov's Gun~: "It's not everyone who gets a chance to start over with a Clean Slate!"
- Conspicuous Trenchcoat: John has the fedora to go along with it, too.
- Deadpan Snarker: Nate; the other kids actually have to tell him to actually lighten up on his friends from time to time.
- And John, for great justice.
- Earn Your Happy Ending
- Eye Scream: Destroying Mrs. White's spying bubble actually shoots her eye out.
- Fantastic Aesop: Actually used in-story. A character actually says "Don't take candy from strangers, because it could be magically enchanted candy," and just about everyone reacts with "...Yeah, like that'll ever happen."
- Joined to this is the more realistic moral that just because someone seems to be nice and offers gifts, it doesn't mean they necessarily have one's best interests in mind.
- Though the moral is a little hard to take seriously when you think about the fact that they don't 'take candy from strangers', they're working to earn it from a woman who runs a candy shop. 
- Fire, Ice, Lightning: The three main types of offensive candy they use are Shock Bits, Flame Outs, and Frost Bites. You can probably guess from the names which ones each confirms to.
- Fountain of Youth
- Future Loser: Averted. The crazy hobo claims to be Nate from the Bad Future, but they note that he doesn't look anything like Nate. He isn't. He's just got Nate's mind in him.
- Girls Have Cooties: Played as a throwaway joke. A boy changes bodies and becomes a girl, and considers that he'd have to get himself checked out for cooties sometime. Later, this same fifth-grade boy finds a certain girl to be cute, so apparently he was only joking about the cooties.
- The Good, the Bad, and The Evil: The book falls somewhere between this and Black and Gray Morality in the Shades of Conflict. The kids are good, but, being kids, they're sometimes surprisingly cruel. The adult good guys can act pretty "WTF?" at times. But the bad guy is pretty undeniably bad.
- Grave Robbing
- Healing Factor: John has one.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Mrs. White gets fed her own Clean Slate by way of defeat.
- Hostage Spirit Link: This is exactly John's curse. Any harm he does will be done to him.
- Impossibly Delicious Food: Mind control aside, seriously, try some white fudge sometime. It's good stuff.
- Kid Hero: Though with some adult help.
- Latex Perfection: Magical perfection, actually--the Melting Pot Mixers disguise you by changing your ethnicity.
- May Contain Evil: White fudge. Ironically, if you've never had the real deal before, you may be hankering for a taste once you set this book down.
- Nerd: Pigeon.
- Nigh Invulnerable: Need to be this for a while? Down an Ironhide jawbreaker.
- No Self-Buffs: Magic works best on the young, so magicians can't get the full benefits of their own magical workings. Hence why they get kids to do their dirty work for them.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Pigeon has been Pigeon since second grade.
- Parental Obliviousness: Thanks to the white fudge.
- Pay Evil Unto Evil: Of the "Let's give these bullies a taste of their own medicine" variety.
- Power Degeneration: One type of Apprentice has this--they have birthmarks which get bigger as they use their powers, and they die when it covers their entire body.
- Required Secondary Powers: Actually repeatedly brought up--such as a gravity-enhancing treat reinforcing bodies (so they don't crush in the enhanced pull), or Pigeon mulling over all the extra things the Brain Feed must do to make animals act so intelligently.
- Talking Animal: Brain Feed has this as its specific effect.
- Timey-Wimey Ball
- The Walls Have Eyes: The main characters are constantly stalked by a strange, floting, disembodied eye-like thing. When they realize who it belongs to, they shoot at it to destroy it... ...when they quickly realize they shot out the bad guy's actual eye.
- Wake Up, Go to School, Save the World
- Xanatos Roulette
- You Already Changed the Past
- ↑ Who asks them to start breaking into houses and rob graves...