Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Book Review: The Shadows by Jacqueline West

Posted as part of Tween Tuesday, hosted by GreenBeanTeenQueen.
The Shadows by Jacqueline West
Publisher: Dial
Publication date:
ISBN: 9780803734401
Source: Library (read for Cybils)

The Shadows (The Books of Elsewhere, Vol. 1)

When Olive and her parents move into a big creepy old house, she is uneasy with some of the things she finds there.  The paintings all over are permanently stuck on the walls and she can't seem to get some of them out of her mind.  When she finds a pair of old spectacles that let her into the world of these paintings, little does she realize the dangerous place she has entered.

Things I Liked:
As I mentioned yesterday in my Cybils celebration post, this was the Cybils winner in the MG SF/Fantasy panel I was on this year.  I was quite happy it won, since it was my first choice almost from the beginning (though in pretty close competition with Fever Crumb, which I read last year).  But this book felt so unique to me!  I loved the intriguing, spooky atmosphere that West's writing created.  For such a short and rather simplistic book, it had a remarkably complex plot.  The writing was fantastic, with some great metaphors throughout that really brought it to life.  I was quite pleased that the story didn't turn out to be totally predictable as well, since I sometimes find (as an adult) that I know exactly what will happen in a kids book.  The ending also managed to be not quite happy and not entirely complete, but still somewhat satisfying.  A lovely, complex, and creepy story for younger Neil Gaiman fans.  Some favorite parts:

It was a muggy afternoon, but the old stone house was dark and cool inside.  Trailing along behind the rest of the group, Olive could feel the little hairs on her bare arms standing up.  Mr. Hambert, on the other hand, was sweating like a mug of root beer in the sun.  His cheeks were pushed up into two red lumps by his wide smile.  He could smell a sale, and it smelled as good as a fresh bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich. p 4
The basement of the old house was made mostly of stone, with some patches of packed dirk poking through, and other patches of crumbling cement trying to hide the dirt.  The effect was like an ancient, stale birthday cake frosted by a blindfolded five-year-old. p 21
Mrs. Nivens and Mrs. Dewey both smiled at her sweetly.  Mrs. Dewey looked as if she had been made of round parts stacked on top of each other, like a snowman.  Mrs. Nivens was thin and blond, and looked like she had been carved out of a stick of butter.  Both of them looked like they would melt on a hot day. p 102
And, in a secret, selfish way, Olive was glad that Morton was stuck in one spot.  He couldn't leave or change or hide, like Horatio, when she needed him.  He was a bit like your favorite page in a book, one that you go back to and read to yourself over and over again, knowing that it will always be the same. p 137
Things I Didn't Like:
At times I was a little bit bored.  There wasn't non-stop action in the book, so it seemed to go slower in places.  There were some parts of the plot that seemed a bit manipulative as well, but I don't think it will bother kids much.  And Morton's ending seemed just a little bit too sad and incomplete for me, but there will be sequels to hopefully take care of that!

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

Coraline by Neil Gaiman
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

s-factor: none

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: ->
some scary stuff

Overall rating: ****

Are you clamoring to read Cybils winners or do you tend to avoid award winners?

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

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