nicole's Reviews > Wonderstruck

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
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's review
Mar 24, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: 7up, 2011
Read from October 25 to 26, 2011

Of course the heavily illustrated, motion picture-like format Selznick developed for The Invention of Hugo Cabret that wowed us all is still novel and exciting and awe-inspiring based on it's level of detail and the sure quantity of pages of artwork alone. But somehow Selznick manages to utilize this style of storytelling even more aptly for Wonderstruck. The way the book's two storylines work at the same time, how the illustrations appear at key moments that connect the stories, and then later, how it brings the two stories together, is nothing short of expertise. Selznick does an amazing job here. When you think about how the images of Rose are often used to show her moving (and most often running) through spaces in an almost flip-book like way, how quietly we're viewing her movement despite the rushing water or the city street noises we know to be present in those scenes, it's all the more remarkable because we realize, in this small way, us readers are experiencing a sort of deafness ourselves. Phenomenal pacing, and details that wallop. One of the things I love best about illustrated works is when we come to an image that tells a story, or an emotional state, all on it's own and better than pages of text ever could; we see that in Rose and it's a bit heartbreaking. It's also interesting as a new ACT of reading, not just because of the visual movement, but because we get to really see a character. The slight bump in Rose's noses had me a bit spellbound and it made her so identifiable as an adult. It's the sort of descriptive detail Selznick doesn't include in his writing, but such a huge part of how he visually defines her, and how we come to recognize her as an adult. As a child reader who HATED long descriptive passages I know an illustrated introduction to a character would have gone over much better with me. But I also think it would have been jarring to at the end of the book, finally see what Ben looks like after imagining for yourself for so many pages. Then again, I never actually thought much about Ben's appearance since Selznick, again, doesn't include those written details.

Parts of the story were a little hokey to me, if I'm being utterly honest. I guess I just don't like it when things fit together TOO WELL because it reminds me that this was a story, and that it was DESIGNED to fit together. That's one of the things I love about Frances Hardinge's Fly By Night so much. There are so many bits and pieces and she works them together so that everything matters and has it's place, but it feels very organic. That complaint -- because I always have one -- aside, this is an amazingly crafted book and it has so, so, SO many things working for it.

In short, a lot to applaud and think about here and I'd love to construct a better review, but the gut reaction is a good one. Same illustrated format Cabret got us all so hyped up on, but better pacing and better writing.
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