by Tom McNeal
First sentence: “What follows is the strange and fateful tale of a boy, a girl, and a ghost.”
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Release date: June 11, 2013
Review copy provided by my place of employment.
In the little town of Never Better there is a legend: if you eat a Prince Cake you will fall in love with the first person you look at. Jeremy blames that for his mother running away, and his father’s decline into… well, decline. And there is a problem, though no one seems to think it one: children keep disappearing. There’s is also an oddity: the ghost of Jacob Grimm (yes, that Grimm) talks to Jeremy, which doesn’t make him the most popular kid. (Well, his dad doesn’t help, either.) Little does Jeremy know, however, that a prank a popular girl named Ginger talks him into will get him into a huge heap of trouble. And little does he know where that trouble will lead.
As much as I wanted to like this one, I had several issues with it.
I don’t particularly mind intrusive narrators, as long as their funny. Case in point: A Tale Dark and Grimm and The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place. In both of those instances, the narrator was 1) funny, and 2) added something to the story. In this case, the narrator drove me crazy. For two reasons 1) because Jacob Grimm was an adult. And 2) why on earth is an adult — even if he is a ghost — playing a main role (and he does) in a middle grade book? (I guess those are kind of the same point, but I’m pretending they’re not.) I ended up skimming everything Jacob said or did, mostly because all of his exposition and explanation held up the story.
I’ve read enough middle grade novels to know that you need to have your middle grade characters actually do things. I think this really fell flat for me because Jeremy and Ginger were mostly reactive characters. Sure, they set off the action in the first place, by playing the prank on the baker, but after that, they reacted to everything. And in the end, it was the ghost — the adult — who solved the conflict. Not exactly something that kids are going to want to read. (Who wants to read about the adult who comes in and saves the day? That’s real life, people.) Additionally, I didn’t realize that the characters were supposed to be 16 years old. They acted 12. I thought they were 12. It wasn’t until after that I realized they were supposed to be older.
Also, I’m invoking Ms. Yingling‘s plea: PLEASE get to the main action before page 190, which is when I gave up trying to read the whole story and just jumped to the ending. And 370 pages was TOO long for this story.
Perhaps I missed the point (I often do): this had a Grimm fairy tale feel to it (and a Grimm fairy tale ending). But, there was just too much going against this one for me to enjoy.