by Brian Selznick
First sentence: “Something hit Ben Wilson and he opened his eyes.”
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Brian Selznick has a lot to live up to with The Invention of Hugo Cabret. It was so unique, so astounding, so novel, that it literally took everyone’s breath away. Going into Wonderstruck, one can only hope for the same breathtaking beauty and novel storytelling that Selznick gave us in Hugo Cabret.
And on one hand, he delivered. The story is completely different: is the tale of two children, Ben and Rose, who live 50 years apart, one told in words and the other in pictures. Both are deaf, and have to deal with the impact of that in their lives. Their stories are separate, but their lives and actions impact on each other in surprising ways. Like Hugo Cabret, the less said about the story the better: it’s one that is best experienced fresh for the first time. The art is, as expected, gorgeous, and flows seamlessly into the text, even though the stories are separate.
Yet, in the end, I wasn’t left with the same sense of having experienced something fantastic that I was after finishing Hugo Cabret. It’s possibly because this style of novel writing has been done before (alas, one can only be new once), and it just didn’t have the same surprising factor. I knew what to expect from this book — lovely art, good storytelling — and while it filled my expectations, it never surpassed them. Though, I wonder if it could also be because this story, unlike Hugo Cabret, doesn’t necessarily have to be told in this fashion. It could be a story in pictures, or a story in words, but it’s not necessarily bound to this medium. And perhaps because of that, it fell short of true grandeur.
I know I’m nitpicking; it’s a good book, even if it didn’t quite live up to my (possibly too high) expectations.