This book was nominated as a Great Middle Great Reads Book of the Month, in a special edition for indie authors. I was a little doubtful about the book from the blurb, but got drawn in, and read it in two sittings. It’s the first of an as yet unfinished trilogy, but it stands alone.
Gabriel is virtually ignored at home in New York, and spends most of his time inside video games. When his parents ship him out to stay with his grandparents in the country for a ‘couple of weeks’ he is completely at a loss – no internet, no games, nothing. Gradually he discovers he can go outside, which leads to meeting people. Fortunately there is a treasure hunt set up by the school’s seniors to give kids a challenge over the summer vacation, and he finds his more cerebral ways helpful when it comes to solving clues. He teams up with some other kids, all of them slight misfits, even if the others do live there, and unravels the mystery of the haunted house… which brings both joy and sorrow, and was so beautifully written that it even hard me in tears!
It’s a book that gave our group a huge range of responses. I found it read well, the kids were believable in their own ways, and didn’t notice any particular dialogue difficulties, unlike other members of the group. I wondered whether people expected all the kids to speak in the way their own did, or whether there is a ‘standard US kid speak’ outside which kids who copy their elders’ speech patterns are thought to be peculiar. I commented on the forum that maybe I read it in a different accent – which is certainly the case. I thoroughly enjoyed the story, and the writing, which risked getting mawkish at times, but managed not to turn me off, which was a great feat!
It’s a lovely story, which risks being one of those ‘misfit finds friendship’ tropes, but pulls out with powerful writing and keen visualisation. I could certainly feel the heat, see the river and the woods, and the potential for adventure. Hannah’s adventure is particularly well handled. I gave it four Goodreads stars, which round up to five on Amazon.