Samantha and her neighbor, Jake, have no idea that Samantha’s best friend, a parrot named Charlie, is a thousand years old. Charlie is also at the center of a secret battle between magical creatures and an ancient, evil man. When Charlie asks Samantha and Jake to protect him, they are chased by monsters from both sides. To save Charlie, and two worlds, Samantha and Jake have twenty-four hours to figure out how to use the supernatural staff, WhipEye, and find the courage to confront what they fear most…
This, in my view, is probably the most disappointing book I’ve read this year. I was really excited by the blurb, which is as well written as the book itself. It is extremely well written, full of colour, vivid description, a tortuous plot, and plenty of tension.
We meet Sam, who is grieving for her mother, as is her father, and their relationship has basically broken down as they simply cannot talk to each other about their grief. Her father rehabilitates animals, and Sam has inherited the interest to the extent she doesn’t really have any friends, and she’s blocked out the ones she had by her grieving. She meets Jake, whose dad has left him and his Mom, and together they make a pretty good sort of team, full of misjudgements and unfulfilled trust and mistaken choices along the way. And as the blurb indicates, Charlie asks Sam to protect him and they get chased by monsters.
It’s such a fast pace that I was enthralled for the first 20% of the book, anxious for Sam in her fragile state of mind (and body, since she often needs to use her asthma inhaler) and the horrific danger from the amazing monsters conjured up by the author. It’s so fast paced I was exhausted. By 40% I was exhausted from the relentless chasing. It just didn’t pause for any breath, except when Sam looked over her shoulder AGAIN to see where the monster was and to reach for the inhaler. Again. Did I say relentless? I lost sympathy for Sam and Jake (but not Charlie, oddly). And on all sides you are bombarded with lists of animals and birds in the country in which they find themselves. Yes, there are clever reasons for that, but, I found it too much.
Eventually, you get a breather. Not just a paragraph but a whole chapter. They aren’t very long chapters. Then the creepy stuff begins, escalating into a Frankensteinian piece of horror worthy of Lovecraft or Frank Herbert.
The book is suggested as a read for 8 – 18 year olds. WARNING: I have added the category ‘Horror’ to my Goodreads shelf to categorise this book. I know lots of kids like horror. I don’t. I wish I’d stopped reading when I was finding the chase tedious. Now I’m going to have nightmares about it.
It’s extremely well written, but it’s unsuitable for many kids, and definitely not those as young as 8. I’d put a PG-13 rating on it, but maybe as these things weren’t being done to children in a real world, Disney will make a film of it. Maybe some things strike certain nerves more than others, but this twanged mine… and the blurb sounded so good. It also made me consider, yet again, the tolerance of what I consider strong violence in US entertainment. Maybe it’s cultural.
I received a free ecopy of this book as part of a MDBR Book Review blast.