Kathryn's Reviews > Joe the Hotel Boy

Joe the Hotel Boy by Horatio Alger Jr.
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's review
Apr 05, 2012

liked it
bookshelves: 2012-reads, american, childrens, young-adult
Read in April, 2012

My fondness for Horatio Alger is inexplicable even to me. I can't help laughing at the outrageous coincidences and the exaggerated virtues of his heroes, coupled with his cartoonish villains (though they at least have a reasonable motivation: money) and the preposterously stilted dialogue. The titular hotel boy, Joe, lives with a man who claims to be (and, in a stunning twist for Alger, actually is) his uncle. His father is missing and presumed dead, and his mother is long dead. When his uncle dies, Joe is cast upon the world. Like all Alger heroes, he scrapes together what cash he can and sets out to find work. Do I even need to tell you? Through a series of remarkable coincidences, Joe catches sundry villains, finds his lost father, and winds up fabulously wealthy.

I have no idea why I like these ridiculous stories so much. They're terrible beyond terrible by any semi-objective measure of writing ability, and yet, it isn't a case of So Bad It's Good; I genuinely get lost in the story long enough to thoroughly enjoy it. It isn't until later that I start laughing at the idea that Joe would just happen to overhear the villains' plan and then just happen to be there when they put the plan into place and then just happen to run into one of the villains in a completely different town and then just happen to be able to do a good turn to the man they swindled and then find out that the swindle has led to his new friend owning a mine that just happens to be right next to his long-lost father's. It's Dirk Gently's detective agency. As the authors of How Not to Write a Novel: 200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid Them--A Misstep-by-Misstep Guide said, "Deus ex machina is French for "Are you f***ing kidding me?"

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