At the Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, you will definitely learn your lesson. An atmospheric, heartfelt, and delightfully spooky novel for fans of Coraline, Splendors and Glooms, and The Mysterious Benedict Society.
Victoria hates nonsense. There is no need for it when your life is perfect. The only smudge on her pristine life is her best friend Lawrence. He is a disaster, lazy and dreamy, shirt always untucked, obsessed with his silly piano. Victoria often wonders why she ever bothered being his friend. (Lawrence does, too.)
But then Lawrence goes missing. And he is not the only one. Victoria soon discovers that The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls is not what it appears to be. Kids go in but come out different. Or they don't come out at all.
If anyone can sort this out, it's Victoria, even if it means getting a little messy.
Claire Legrand used to be a musician until she realized she couldn’t stop thinking about the stories in her head. Now she is a New York Times bestselling author of darkly magical books.
Her first novel is THE CAVENDISH HOME FOR BOYS AND GIRLS, one of the New York Public Library’s 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing in 2012. She is also the author of THE YEAR OF SHADOWS, a ghost story for middle grade readers; and WINTERSPELL, a young adult re-telling of The Nutcracker. SOME KIND OF HAPPINESS, her middle grade novel about mental illness, family secrets, and the power of storytelling, is a 2017 Edgar Award Nominee. Claire’s latest middle grade novel, FOXHEART, is a classic fantasy-adventure and a 2016 Junior Library Guild selection. The companion novel, THORNLIGHT, was a Kids' Indie Next Pick in 2021. She is one of the four authors behind THE CABINET OF CURIOSITIES, an anthology of dark middle grade short fiction that was a Junior Library Guild selection, a Bank Street Best Book, and among the New York Public Library’s 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing in 2014.
Her young adult horror novel SAWKILL GIRLS received five starred reviews. It was also a 2018 Bram Stoker Award finalist and a 2019 Lambda Literary Award finalist. Her latest novel, EXTASIA, is a young adult horror novel described as "The Handmaid's Tale meets The Craft" and was a Kids' Indie Next Pick.
Are you in the mood to spooked? Here is a delightfully dreadful tale that will give you the creepy-crawlies.
12-year-old Victoria's best friend Lawrence has gone missing. Not only is she confused and lonely after his disappearance, but no one in town seems to remember who he was. Prickly, persnickety Victoria is determined to find out what happened to him, and gradually her questions lead her straight to the tall, gray-brick Home at the end of her street where the bright-eyed Mrs. Cavendish lives.
Written in brisk prose reminiscent of Roald Dahl's, The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls showcases a gratifyingly smart debut by author Claire Legrand. The clever writing assumes that its readers are intelligent thinkers, with vibrant verbs and grim humor marching the story purposefully along with its spirited heroine and her quest.
There is much wickedness afoot in this story, with the dastardly deeds ranging from abusive behavior to murder to...eating things that one really oughtn't. (Truly, I will never look at butterscotch candy the same way again.) One of the things that makes it especially deliciously creepy is that Victoria partakes in some of these activities without even knowing it, so the gradual realization of what's really going on in this dark carnival house is a shudder-inducing experience.
I loved the scenes in which Victoria is overcome by nightmarish swarms of insects and when the dark walls move and breathe and when she realizes exactly what the beautiful but ghoulish Mrs. Cavendish has been up to. There were moments in the ending chapters that were absolutely magnificent in their gleeful fiendishness, and they made me do happy creepy dances in my seat. This is a story that may not appeal to those with more delicate sensibilities and probably isn't suitable for very young children, but Legrand's deft hand certainly makes it palatable for middle grade readers.
I think some of the scenes would have had more impact if they'd been lengthened, however, as the horror is so brilliant that holding that tension just a bit longer would have allowed us to relish them more. Conversely, the build-up of the mystery also felt a little long for my personal taste. I would also like to have seen some deeper emotion, as the story skims on some sadness and fear, but doesn't quite leave the sort of lingering feeling that a reader like me yearns for. I still loved reading the story, however, and I'm very much looking forward to the author's future work.
If you're in need of handsome presents this holiday season, by the way, this one fits the bill in more ways than one! The book itself is absolutely beautiful, with a textured book jacket, lovely end papers, and wonderful illustrations by Sarah Watts. As you turn the pages, there are also surprises in the form of smudgy little cockroaches sprinkled here and there throughout the text. *shudder* The design is perfect for this book, and makes it an even more pleasurable reading experience. (More photographs of the hardcover can be found here.)
The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls is an elegant nightmare that will appeal to imaginative children with a sense of humor, and to those of us who have longed for stories that aren't afraid to scare us--but also puts a reassuring arm around us in the end. The next time you're in the mood for a shivery read, Cavendish the perfect thing to curl up with on a blustery night.
It was creepy, spooky, scary, icky, wicked, and horrifyingly delicious. I can’t believe I waited so long to take this off of my shelf and give it a go. The story was amazing and fun and a few parts gave me the creeps, which is hard for books to do to me sometimes. I applaud this book for that.
This is about a young snooty twelve-year-old girl whose peculiar best friend goes missing and of course she has to find out what happened to him and that is when the creepiness begins. I thought I knew what this book was going to be about before I opened it and even 50 pages in I thought I still knew but then it took a turn and twisted into something completely different. This felt like two amazing books in one. It started out as a contemporary spookfest and then slammed right into a fantastical and horrifying roller-coaster, I COULD NOT PUT IT DOWWWWWWN.
If you enjoyed The Spiderwick Chronicles or Coraline then I’d say to read this NOW! Also, I’d recommend keeping a can of bug spray nearby in case you start to feel like creepy little beetles are nuzzled in your sleeves or ticking around in your blankets, cause this book will do that to you, trust me.
What a deliciously horrible antagonist Mrs. Cavendish is in this story about a girl, Victoria, and her friend, Lawrence. Victoria strives for perfection and control in everything, and she has little to no patience for anything that deviates from her ideals. Lawrence is scruffy, untidy, and loves (shock!) music and playing the piano. Victoria and Lawrence live in Belleville, where everyone in town wants everything to be uncomplicated and good-looking, and conventional. Anything else is frowned upon. Victoria begins noticing that classmates who don't conform have disappeared, including Lawrence. Victoria sets her mind to figuring out what's happened. I totally enjoyed this tale of disappearances, increasing tension, many, many bugs, torture, mutilation, abandonment, fear and lack of empathy. Victoria embodies many of the town's sentiments about difference and nonconformity for much of the novel, making her a somewhat difficult protagonist to like, and it's interesting watching her wrestle with her biases and grow up a little while she tries to find and rescue Lawrence. This is a surprisingly dark and frightening book for a middle grade audience, and I like that it's precisely the things that made the children difficult, such as loving and playing music, that are important for their survival and freedom.
Thea: Awe. Horror. Utter, depraved delight. All of these are emotions I experienced while reading The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, the debut novel from Claire Legrand. Cavendish has a little bit of everything - a dash of Matilda, a heaping dose of Coraline, a touch of Tim Burton, topped off with a whole lotta original awesomeness, too, naturally. This is one fantastic book, and I loved it from cover to cover.
Ana: When I finished reading The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls I decided I needed to tell my colleagues all about it. It was just after lunch break and I was decidedly giddy about it. This is how I presented it: a fabulous horror book for children featuring cockroaches, cannibalism, a perfect little girl who she sets out to save her best friend. As I grew more and more enthusiastic about my recounting of the book, I stood up and I might have re-enacted a scene or two of the book – one of them, to the horror of those around me, involved an army of roaches. This is going to be our book club read for Halloween. Long story short: I loved this so much, I subjected myself to ridicule by re-enacting a scene with cockroaches.
On the Plot:
Thea: Victoria Wright is twelve years old and the top of her class at Impetus Academy. The pride of her stylish mother and well-connected father, Victoria makes sure that everything in her life is orderly and perfect, from her gleaming curls to her impeccable grades. In fact, the only thing that is not just so for Victoria is her one and only friend Lawrence Prewitt. Lawrence, also twelve years old, is a quiet boy with gray hairs that make him look a bit like a skunk, who doesn't care about his grades or what others think of him. What Lawrence cares about is music - he's a prodigy on the piano, but not much good at anything else. One day, after witnessing some particularly rude and disorderly taunting of Lawrence, Victoria decides to take him on as her own special project and befriends the strange musical boy (even when he resists and rejects her). Victoria and Lawrence grow to be close friends, until the day that Lawrence disappears.
Although the Prewitts insist that Lawrence is simply off visiting his ill Grandmother, Victoria notices that something is wrong - and this wrongness is not just with Lawrence's parents, but with so many others in the pristine town of Belleville. Peoples' smiles are garishly tight, their teeth too gleamingly white, and something else scuttles around the dark corners that Victoria can't quite see.
At the heart of all this wrongness is the orphanage on Nine Silldie Place - The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls. Children, like Lawrence, are disappearing from Belleville, and no one seems to care - no one but a few quickly silenced adults (like Professor Alban) and Victoria, that is. Victoria is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery, to find her friend, and to restore sanity to the world.
From a pure plotting and storytelling perspective, The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls is a delightfully terrifying, deliciously creepy read - one that effectively plays with familiar tropes and images, like scuttling bugs in dark corners, mystery meat for breakfast, lunch and dinner, a house with voices and shifting halls, and a terrifying puppetmaster under a sheen of glamour in the form of Mrs. Cavendish at the center of it all. In Claire Legrand's blog post today, she cites a few MG titles that influenced her work (in particular her heroine Victoria), and the homage she pays to these fabulous books are strewn throughout Cavendish. There's Roald Dahl's Matilda - from the terrifying Home's "hangar" (where children are...hanged), which feels very much like Dahl's Chokey, to the horrific coaching Mrs. Cavendish gives to a boy who cannot resist eating sweets, which feels very much like Miss Trunchbull's abusive cake-punishment inflicted on a sweet-toothed student. There's also glimmers of Neil Gaiman's Coraline in Cavendish, too - the shimmering facade of the Other Mother in Mrs. Cavendish's tight, sunny smiles hiding a monster beneath, the oddness of the Other Mother's realm in the other dimension that the Cavendish Home embodies.
But, most importantly, while some of the elements are familiar and the hat-tips to influential works are unmistakable, The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls has no shortage of its very own original magic. At heart, Cavendish tells the story of a prickly heroine that learns her own worth and the value of friendship - that different and disorderly does not always mean worse. To make this point, Claire Legrand is as gleefully sadistic as her titular Mrs. Cavendish - inflicting all kinds of deranged punishment on her characters, including (but not limited to) physical, emotional, and psychological torture; swarming, stinging beetle-roaches; and stinking food with mysterious chunks of rubbery meat for every meal. Even better - Legrand's writing is even-handed and never gratuitous or pandering, as she manages to keep the voice consistent with its middle grade heroine, but still make the story appealing (and properly horrific) for older readers alike. The story is brisk, the tension high, and as Victoria learns the true nature of the Cavendish Home and the secret of her perfect town, I was utterly, wholly under Cavendish's spell.
Ana: Unfortunately I am not schooled in Horror stories and more to the point, I am most definitely not well-read in children’s Horror stories . This means that even though I do understand some of the references and recognise some of the influences that Thea noted above, to me the sense of the familiar that the book engenders stems from archetypical fears rather than specific works. As such, Cavendish plays really well into those familiar fears: the fear of the dark and of confined spaces; of losing one’s parents; of loneliness and being at the mercy of enemies; of the monsters under the bed (or behind a wall) and of the creepy crawly insects. And then it goes beyond by combining those archetypical fears with the book’s own thematic elements: self-acceptance and the value of friendship and the importance of memory – of remembering people that are gone and the things have gone wrong in the past so that they are not repeated again.
This is a Horror story and it is meant to be horrific. I love that the author does not pander to her audience - although at times I admit found myself clutching my imaginary pearls in extreme horror and going “I can’t believe she went there”. I loved the book because it was a proper horror story and it doesn’t shy away from it. Interestingly, it is hinted that the parents of those children actually would have wanted them to go to the Cavendish Home to become perfect, well-behaved little children. As such, this makes the book all the more impacting because then the Cavendish Home might as well be a mirror to the world outside: a world that strives for a certain type of perfection that is fake and unnatural.
Of course, it also helps that the prose itself is pretty awesome and that the story is developed beautifully as a Quest to save a Best Friend (and in the process of doing so, also save the town).
On the Characters:
Ana: Victoria, the main character is an incredible MG heroine. Assertive, intelligent, self-sufficient. Incredibly self-aware about certain things: about her sense of self-worth and about her integrity, sense of honour and extreme dedication to her own education with a love for knowledge and a desire for victory. But she was also completely oblivious to others: like her potential for cruelty, the sense of superiority that effectively distanced her from the other kids and her real feelings for Lawrence (whom I loved from basically page 1).
I loved that the majority of those characteristics are not presented as negative aspects in themselves – they only become negative when Victoria thinks of herself as superior (and therefore better) to everybody else when they don’t show the same features. Her character arc is great - as per the thematic core of the novel, she learns to accept others for who they are (e.g. completely different from her) without changing her own personality. In fact it is her very own non-nonsense way to look at the world that saves her life.
As for Mrs Cavendish: Mrs Cavendish is that sort of unrepentant, black-and-white villain that is so easy to loathe. She reminded me of Professor Umbridge with her potential for unparalleled cruelty, the kind that entwines both physical and emotional torture.
Thea: Allow me to break out of serious reviewer mode and commence gushing: OH MY GOSH PEOPLE I FREAKING LOVE LOVE LOVE VICTORIA SO MUCH. Just as the author says in her guest post about heroines, Victoria is a prickly, snobbish, perfectionist of a heroine. The mere thought of earning a B is horrific to her, and she goes about her pristine, ordered life with nary a thought for what she might be missing or whom she is hurting in her quest for Utter Victory (Academic or otherwise). And yet, despite her frosty princess qualities, Victoria is an incredibly compelling and likable heroine, because underneath that hardened shell of self-importance, she actually is a loyal, true friend (though she's oblivious to this fact). Heck, the only reason why she stands a chance against Mrs. Cavendish and her cohorts is because she has such a hard head and a stubborn streak a mile wide.
On the other side of the coin, however, there is Mrs. Cavendish - our villain, who also quests for and demands utter perfection of everyone in the town of Belleville. At different parts of the book, comparisons are drawn between Victoria and Mrs. Cavendish, showing the similarities between the two characters - both Victoria and Mrs. Cavendish demand others conform to their standards and beliefs. And through the horrors inflicted on children and the townspeople by Mrs. Cavendish, Victoria gradually learns that sometimes perfect is not perfect at all. In particular, I love one scene where Mrs. Cavendish forces one of the girls to paint the same bland, pretty picture over and over again, and Victoria reflects on Jacqueline's art before - how it was shocking and disturbing and made people feel things, in stark contrast to the perfect, soulless pictures Mrs. Cavendish forces Jacqueline to create. Mrs. Cavendish perhaps was once like Victoria, gone down a different, dark path - I love the contrast painted between these two characters, and how Victoria breaks free from Mrs. Cavendish's cruel grip.
Although, I should mention that what I love most of all about Victoria is the fact that while she does change over the course of the novel, she does not emerge from Cavendish as some benevolent, repentant child. No, she is still prickly, still overacheiving, still hyperorganized to a fault - but she realizes that she wants and needs more than distant approval from her parents and wants their love, just as she knows she yearns for Lawrence's friendship just as much as he yearns for hers. And that is all kinds of awesome.
Final Thoughts, Observations & Rating:
Ana:The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls is an amazingly fun and creepy read. The author develops its thematic core of self-worth without being preachy and without pandering to readers – this is Horror, yes. But Horror with a Heart.
Thea: I completely, wholeheartedly agree. The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls is a beautifully written, gleefully horrific novel that is perfect for readers young and old. Starring a truly remarkable protagonist in Victoria (who can go toe-to-toe with the finest heroines in the middle grade canon), and featuring terrifying (but appropriate and never gratuitous) horror in the form of Mrs. Cavendish, The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls simply rocks. Easily one of my notable reads of 2012.
This book is still so precious to me. It's been five years now since it came out and I read it for the first time. This is now the fourth time I have read it, though it had already been three years since my last read. How rude. Finally had the chance to read it again now, though. And I'm so happy that I did. Because it is perfect.
I'm thrilled that I still love this book just as much as I did all those years ago. I simply adore Claire and all her books. This first one of hers is still my favorite of them all, I think. The writing is simply amazing. Yess. And I adore the characters more than I can say. Gosh, that epilogue is still the worst. I need a sequel so so badly.
I'm not going to share too much about this stunning book. But I must write down some of the parts that I loved. If you still haven't read this very precious middle grade book, then shame on you. Because it is one of the best there is. It's so creepy and evil and heartbreaking and so perfect. This book is told from the point of view of twelve year old Victoria. Whom was all kinds of amazing to read about. She was a bit mean at times, yet she has a huge heart inside of her, and she got kinder as the book went on. She's obsessed with being the very best at school. Which she is. She wants everything to be perfect. I did love that about her. She was awesome. Okay, she was a bit rude at times, but I didn't mind. Because she's sweet too. And kind. And very brave.
Victoria doesn't have many friends, only one. And oh, how I adored Lawrence. Eee. They only have each other. And they are so cute together, though Victoria could be a bit rude at times. Yet it's obvious that she cares about him a lot and they are best friends. This book is about Lawrence going missing. And though Victoria is a bit distracted with something about her grades, she's still realizing that something isn't right with Lawrence being gone. The grownups are all acting weird. And she's noticing other kids missing too.
There is so much that I love about this book. The friendship between Victoria and Lawrence was my favorite thing. I loved how there are small hints that they are to become more than friends. It's the cutest thing. Mostly I just adored how they were together. I so wish there had been even more scenes between them. Aw. Because these two characters were the best. I adored how they cared for each other. I loved how Victoria started trying her best to find him, to save him. Some parts were so heartbreaking, though.
I'm not sure how to describe the plot of this book. It reminds me a lot of Coraline, the movie. Which I adore. But this book is even better, just so you know. Kids are going missing in this town. And no one is doing anything about it. No one even seems to notice it, except for Victoria. So she starts to investigate. And she notices The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls in her neighborhood. Which has always been there, but she's never really thought about it before or heard anyone talk about it. Which was very weird.
And oh, the plot in this book. It's just all kinds of perfect. I'm not going to mention all of it, just that this home is all kinds of creepy and horrible and it still kills me how sad some parts of it were. Like the gofers. I still can't get over that. So heartbreaking. Yet so perfectly written. Mrs. Cavendish was the very worst person there is. And her sort of partner, Mr. Alice. He was horrible too. And just, ugh. This book was so good. But so so creepy and this big house was pretty scary to read about and I loved it so. But so evil.
I'm not going to say more about this book this time. Just that you have to read it if you haven't already. I love it so, so much. Victoria and Lawrence are the very best. And this story was incredible. I love that I have read it four times now, and love it even more for each time I read it. Such a huge fan of Claire, and cannot wait to read more books by her. And re-read all her other books as well. So excited. But yeah, this one is my favorite. Stunning artwork inside too. And that cover is just gorgeous. Love this book so much.
Actually more like a 100 stars. It's creepy and funny and Victoria is one of the best MG characters in aaaages. Also, I loved the writing, especially the descriptions of the insides of the House and the not-quite-perfect, Stepford-ish town. You MUST read it. Like, now. Really. :)
The book is described as a combination of Neil Gaiman and Trenton Lee Stewarts' Mysterious Benedict Society. And it is, but it is also its own wonderfully sinister creation. This is not a writer nor story that sugarcoats disturbing events! Part fable, part fairy tale, and all horror story, The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls is a veritably frightening, gruesome, and beautifully written story.
Victoria Wright likes everything to be just so. She is a perfect student, an overachiever, and top of her class (well, in everything but music). Lawrence, a disheveled classmate and brilliant piano player, is taken on by Victoria as a project. She hopes that Lawrence will learn from her perfection or, at the very least, that she may make him over as a more put-together, presentable boy. But as their peculiar friendship grows, strange and malevolent things are happening in their picturesque town of Belleville. Cold, forceful winds; strange whisperings; scuttling, noisy pinching roaches; and a frightening talk with a teacher prick Victoria's interest- and annoyance. It seems that only Victoria notices that adults and classmates around her are acting very strange, very robotic, and unlike themselves...and she seems to be the only one who dares question things when children and adults alike start disappearing at monstrous rates. When Lawrence disappears, Victoria takes it upon herself to uncover and discover the Cavendish home- and bring Lawrence back.
I think Legrand really excels in making her descriptions of the supernatural and terrifying occurrences inspire intense emotion. There is something to be said for a children's novel which can invite emotional and visceral reactions. There are more than a few passages where I felt uncomfortable, blanched more than a little bit, and more than a few passages where I felt such a venomous hatred for the villains of the story that I had to close my eyes! I would recommend this read to anyone who enjoys macabre fairy-tales, and/or writing along the lines of J.K. Rowling, Jane Yolen, Jackson Pearce, Neil Gaiman, Gail Carson Levine, and the Brothers Grimm. I thought the ending of the novel was so very ominous (and devious) that it left me wondering if we may ever hear about Victoria or The Cavendish Home again.
Lovely, creepy book. It doesn't really start out that way. 12 year old Victoria is one of those perfect children who are always neat and well behaved. She gets straight A's and even has curly blond hair and blue eyes. Her only friend is a musically talented boy that she befriended in order to improve him. Even the town they live in is picture postcard perfect. Then, children begin to disappear. Victoria doesn't notice it much until her friend Lawrence is one of them. Then, she decides that SHE will fix the problem, because Victoria has never failed at anything she has set out to do.
This problem is a bit harder than those she has dealt with at school, however, and it takes her a while to begin to understand what is going on, and what she will have to do to fix it. In the process, Victoria learns some home truths about her own attitudes.
I don't want to give anything away, but, of course, it DOES involve the Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls. And you have never met a creepier setting. Part of the time it seems to be sunny and welcoming. Other times it is a sinister place with moving walls; infested with bugs.
The illustrations are perfect, especially the bugs that randomly appear on the pages. I kept wanting to brush them off, or slam a book shut on them. Eww.
And the ending is great. I can only imagine it was inspired by too much reading of Shirley Jackson, or too many episodes of Hitchcock or the Twilight Zone, by it was perfect for this creepy, enjoyable book.
wow i read this forever ago long enough to obnoxiously comment when everyone else was reading it because i had loved it but i wanted to write a huge good review but then i couldn't. if i loved cavendish home less i could talk about it more, it is all my favorite ya tropes and tropes in general with additional good stuff like some surprisingly legit creepy atmospheric stuff.
it is like a book written just for me, thank u claire legrand, i love u
A brilliantly crafted creepy yet totally tons of fun middle grade. This is my first read by Claire Legrand and it was such a treat. I never wanted to put it down hence why I finished it in about 2 days.
This is a middle grade novel so it was a bit cheesy but it was surprisingly not that predictable. I mean there were a couple parts where I was like, "Yeah that was obvious" but I found myself being pleasantly shocked by some of the twists and reveals sprinkled throughout this story. The main character Victoria was a nice fire cracker and I adored her. Some of the side characters were fun to.
There was a nice underlying theme throughout this book. From what I gathered, it's pretty much about the world isn't perfect. No one is and there is not one single person who can change you besides you. I really like this theme because the youth of today (since this is geared towards middle grade) really needs to hear this. Live your life doing what makes you happy.
All in all this middle grade standalone was just the right amount of creepy and fun and I enjoyed myself immensely.
4.5 stars, really. I'm not one for creepy books, but I think I'm going to have to rethink that after reading this one! I loved this story. I loved the atmospheric setting, the spunky and smart main character and the whole host of secondary characters. It was so fun and so unexpected and so compelling!
It starts off a bit slow, and the main character is a bit awful at first, but stick with it. By the end of the book, Victoria had grown on me and I was deeply creeped out. There's a fair bit of body horror lurking here, so keep that in mind if you like to avoid that sort of thing.
"Victoria hated messes. She hated distractions. Friends were the worst distraction of all."
Sometimes I don't even recall why I choose certain books to take a stab at, but I must have had a worthwhile decision to read The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls. Claire Legrand spun a perfectly creepy and crawly chilling story, much like the disturbingly icky critters that were one of the main antagonists of this story.
In a little town of Belleville, Victoria always strives for perfection - to be perfect, to be the best is her motto and she aims to have those around her, namely her best friend since 4th grade, Lawrence, to perfectly prim and proper. But, everything changes the day Lawrence mysteriously disappears and Victoria realizes that maybe being too perfect isn't all that it's cut out to be.
I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it either. I liked that Ms.Legrand didn't shy away from being as creepy and disturbing she could, with all the vile details of images Victoria had to face. Mrs.Cavendish was a dark and sinister headmistress, and I seriously got chills at all the horrid tortures she subjected to the children under he control. When I think about it, it was almost like a twisted take on certain elements from Roald Dahl's Matilda. Mrs.Cavendish reminded me a lot of the Trunchbull with her disdain for children and her form of a torture chamber, the hanger, was very reminiscent of the terrible chokey, as well. 😨😨
Apart from the unsettling unease I had while reading - because literally, I didn't know how matters could get only worse than they already were - I also liked the soft subtle moments of intimacy between Victoria and Lawrence. There was a softness to how Victoria would feel about him, that was very tangible and I liked how the writing evoked that feeling in me too.
When Ms.Cavendish was trying to 'perfect' Lawrence, this was a gorgeous phrase, "For the first time in her life, Victoria thought she understood the word 'heartbreak.'" And when they were reunited, this made me smile that even in the darkest of moments, there can be levity with words, too. 💕💕
“You were looking for me?” Victoria wondered if she would be red for the rest of her life. “Yes.”
And with this haunting chilling atmosphere, there was a lot of sharp clever writing with really clever dialogue that made me enjoy it a lot more than I thought I would.
"The only sounds Victoria could hear were the slamming door and her own heartbeat. They began to match up. Her heart was the slamming door."
It did end a little abruptly in my opinion, as it it didn't wrap up everything completely. A time skip is always a pet peeve of mine, since it somehow disregards the immediate reactions to the events at that time. And then so many questions remain unanswered and mysteries are still yet unsolved.
Still, despite it being a really chilling and creepy read, it was also the story about growth and friendship - about opening up to others and knowing that you don't have to be alone in your life. Nor do you have to be absolutely perfect at everything you achieve - you can be happy and content with yourself, just the way you are. 😊
The premise here is simple, at least in its broad outlines: a boy goes missing, a girl has to go find him. It's refreshing that in this case it's the girl who rescues the boy, and that there are few overtones of obligatory-feeling romance between the two. And there are also some truly creepy descriptions that I wish had been developed into fuller scenes. But on the whole this book felt rushed to me, its characters thin and its plot confusing. (Full disclosure: I read an ARC, so some of these issues may have been resolved in the final version.)
Victoria and Lawrence live in Belleville, a pretty, perfect, wealthy small town. Victoria is always top of the class, has no time for friends, hates anything out of place or ugly, and freely dispenses criticism where it isn't asked for. She adopts Lawrence as a pet project, aiming to change him from a shy music prodigy into a more user-friendly and popular kid. They're still developing a grudging friendship when Lawrence disappears. His parents, sporting newly fixed grins and wolfish eyes, say that he's gone to visit his grandmother. Victoria isn't so sure.
Her investigations lead her (surprise surprise) to the Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, the orphanage down the street. (Are there any good stories about orphanages? At all?) Mrs. Cavendish and Mr. Alice run the place, and it's pretty clear from the get-go that something weird is up with them. The descriptions of Mr. Alice, who serves as gardener and general dogsbody, are wonderfully horrible. He's white and puffy, and seems always about to burst out of his own skin, like a semi-rotten zombie. Mrs. Cavendish is a little harder to pin down. Legrand trades heavily on stock descriptions of evil masterminds as cloyingly, deceptively sweet--until their sadism outs. At times Cavendish seems to whipsaw so quickly between charming and monstrous that she loses cohesion.
Overall, Cavendish felt formulaic and perfunctory to me, and I never really grasped why she was so evil, or why her evilness took the particular form that it does. I wanted at least one or two scenes that would dig beneath her facade and explain her to me a bit. Why does she run the orphanage? Why is she so fixated on the children? Where did she even come from? It's all left frustratingly vague.
The book is a quick read but it could have been shorter. There are a few too many scenes spent recapping information that we already know (Lawrence is missing, adults don't seem to be acting right, Victoria is ambivalent about breaking rules to find out what's really happening.) The tension could be more artfully handled as well. Time after time, Cavendish has the opportunity to finish Victoria off but doesn't do it, for reasons unknown. I never felt that Victoria was truly in danger, because she seemed unreasonably fearless and able to avoid harm despite what should have been insurmountable odds against her.
My biggest frustration, though, was with sentence-level descriptions. Apart from a few real zingers--adults smiling artificially, as if pins had been inserted into the corners of their mouths and were pulling them back and up, ugh, wow--many of the descriptions here are vague and unclear. When things really heat up in the Home, Victoria encounters the terrors of the parlor and the hanger...but the descriptions of them are so unclear that I never really felt like I understood what was going on. Even in the book's climactic scenes, I found myself skimming because I couldn't see the scenes being described. I finished without really knowing what had happened, or caring enough to go back and parse it out.
This is a debut novel, and it's by a librarian, so it has two strokes in its favor in my book. I appreciated its strong female protagonist and the way it (mostly) edged around a heteronormative romance. I know that Legrand has another book out already, and a third in the works. I wish her all kinds of success, but I also hope she slows down a bit. I want to enjoy her scenes and sentences as much as her ideas.
ETA with spoilers: There are some pretty disturbing scenes of child abuse in this book, including corporal punishment, kidnapping, abandonment, force-feeding, and implied (but not shown) murder & cannibalism. So basically, your standard Grimm's fairy tale. Probably not for the faint of heart. Or anyone with a bug phobia.
Meet Victoria Wright, a 12-year-old who’s so driven that she won’t even make friends because friends are just “idiots trying to distract you” (p. 144) from the goal of being the most perfect child living on Silldie Place and attending Impetus Academy, “Where Tradition Meets Innovation.” Blonde-curled Victoria — compulsively well-behaved, tidy, competitive, smugly self-assured — lives in the town of Belleville, a Stepford, Conn., clone in which “everything smelled of clean, crisp money” (p. 83) and upper-class, overachieving parents breed self-absorbed, perfectionist children.
Victoria’s only friend, the unkempt musical prodigy Lawrence Prewitt, she dismisses as a personal project. But when on Tuesday, Oct. 11, Lawrence suddenly disappears, Victoria slowly begins to realize that something is very wrong in Belleville. Her suspicion strengthens further as gradually more and more students — always the bohemian or unpopular ones — begin to disappear, too, and the Impetus Academy teachers began to act oddly cheery or terrified.
What’s going on? Victoria isn’t sure, but it seems to involve perpetually rainy weather, odd cockroach-like insects, extremely strange behavior amongst adults and popular kids, and the Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, an orphanage located near Victoria’s home. Victoria knows two things for certain: (1) most of the adults who live on her street — including her family’s housekeeper — and most of her teachers have at least an inkling about what’s going on but are terrified to speak out, and (2) Victoria Wright, using the same relentless determination which she has lavished on getting straight-As and keeping her room and life immaculately tidy, will get to the bottom of the eerie matter. Or else! Along the way, Victoria proves herself to be more clever and courageous — and compassionate — than anyone knew.
I had no idea that The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls would turn into such a page-turner! Or so suspenseful and scary and much darker than I expected. Yes, I was hooked from the second page, where Victoria announces in the fourth grade to Lawrence that they would be friends. He replies, “I don’t really want to be your friend”; Victoria — already confident of her indomitable will — then rejoins: “Well, that’s too bad for you.” (p. 2). But when the mystery of what’s ailing Belleville in general and what’s happened to Lawrence in particular emerges, I couldn’t put this debut novel down and read late into the night. Like Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, the Harry Potter saga, The Magic Thief, or From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls is a children’s book with a unique premise that adults will devour. Author Claire Legrand's message of the dangers of conformity and judgmental perfectionism and the importance of quirkiness and individuality will especially resonate with teenagers and grownups.
I'm giving this one 3.5 stars, with the full knowledge that it probably really deserves 4 or 4.5. It's strictly down to personal preferences, and of little to no fault of the author. It IS a good book. It's fairly original, compelling, and a real page turner. I love the dark whimsy of the whole thing, and I love that despite being a joy ride of scariness, it threw a message in there for good measure. There were just a few annoying bits in my mind, and they are not something that would likely annoy anyone else who is a fan of this particular genre (hence why I feel the need to apologise my way through this review.
Basically, young perfect girl's best friend goes missing. Young perfect girl sets her jaw in determination to find him/her, and discovers things in her town are not as black and white as she would like to believe. Things get creepier and creepier...and I'll leave it there for you to discover the rest. It's a scary book...surprisingly (dare I say shockingly?) scary in fact. It left a lot of creepy crawlies up my spine. But I did feel like the beginning of the book was a series of scenes where the main character goes from place to place, in an almost formulaic way which got old. It was SO good at the beginning, that it annoyed me extra lots that it was suddenly so slow and boring. This wore off given time, so if you also find a lull, hang in there, I felt it picked back up again. The other reason it bugged me was for a gross reveal near the climax of the book which I felt was briefly horrifying but which the children in the book seemed to get over more quickly than I felt comfortable with overall. Crypic? Yes, I am being crypic because I don't want to ruin it for you. Despite my beefs with it, and the gross out factor turning me off from it a bit, I did like it and I recognise it as a good book that wasn't quite my cup of tea.
It's interesting when you run into a bit of book synchronicity. Having read Barker's The Thief of Always shortly before this one, I couldn't help but see some similar elements in the two books.
The biggest issue I had with this book was that it was about 100 pages too long. It was so repetitive. The whole beginning when Victoria is first noticing people have gone missing, and she starts investigating, is just one big continuous loop.
I did like the bit in the library, though, and it was probably, for me, the one truly suspenseful part of the whole story.
The story really gets started once we get to the Home itself (which takes far too long), but then things also seemed a bit too easy once we got there.
There were some gross bits, to be sure, but I didn't get the fear that some other reviews have mentioned. In fact, I felt like the story was a bit blasé and glossed over some kind of horrific stuff - like kids being tortured.
The one thing I remember strongest is that it does have a good sort of moral lesson about the things that are really important in life. It's the sort of message you see a lot in rom-coms and Lifetime movies, and it seemed a little out-of-place in a horror book for kids... I can't imagine a lot of kids that are actually like Victoria, tbh, but I guess it's a good lesson to instill early on.
I'd originally rated this 2.5 because I think the ending picked up some, after me kind of starting to skim because I didn't feel like it was going to end - but I can't really even remember now, so down to a full 2-stars it is.
Wonderfully gothic with one of my new favorite protagonists, Victoria. I was immediately drawn into the story, and I thought I basically knew where it was going (and was totally fine with it), but I was pleasantly surprised by the direction it took! For fans of Coraline and Series of Unfortunate Events.
Fancy a creepy story with an engaging protagonist and an eerie setting? Well, then this is your cup of tea. First off, I'll have to say write it: I love Victoria. Was she a kindhearted girl? No, definitely not. And maybe it's because of her strong personality that I was so keen to follow her in her 'investigations'. She is often is pretentious and a snob. She strives to be the best at everything, dedicating all of her time to study. Most importantly, whatever the purpose, Victoria is determined. Unlike most MG heroines, who are often sadly one-dimensional boring girls, Victoria was a fleshed out girl of twelve. Her sharp yet witty character perfectly fitted the spine-chilling mood of the book and although I initially thought that The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls would reminiscence Coraline, I was gladly proved wrong and I never knew what would Victoria discover next. Moreover, it wasn't just a creepy book. Victoria's search for Lawrence unravels the perfect facade of her town, parents, neighbours, and most importantly herself. A realistically flawed yet lovable protagonist and an array of unique secondary characters combined with a sinister story and captivating writing style The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls was a thrilling read.
One night while I was at Chapters I came across this book in the bargain/YA section, and the only reason I picked it up was because of the cover design; it’s beautiful and intriguing!! I read the flap (yes I call it that) and decided it was coming home with me, little did I know that this is actually classified as a children’s book, but hey, so is Harry Potter!
I don't even think I can capture in words my level of excitement and love for this book!! But I will do my best! After reading the first chapter I was hooked, Claire is extremely talented and has such a way with words! There wasn’t a single point where I sat there thinking “Why yes, I am most definitely reading a children’s book!” She keeps you on your toes, intrigued, and twitchy! While reading this in bed I found myself to be somewhat (okay very) jumpy, if the sheet slightly moved I jumped, the worst I would say was when my cat came crawling into my room.
I’ll admit that while reading the first couple of chapters I was highly annoyed with Victoria and the way she treated others, especially Lawrence. But Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls had an enjoyable and strong character development and a solid plot! You might think that you can predict what will happen next, but you can’t. There were so many things that I just didn’t see coming!
I recommend this book to everyone!! There is no age limit!
Whatever you think is going on in Mrs. Cavendish's Home for Boys and Girls, the truth is far more grotesque and wonderful than anything you could imagine. Victoria Wright has always been a perfect daughter and student, but in true Roald Dahl fashion, "perfect" is in the eye of the beholder, and Victoria manages to be both sympathetic and insufferable in all the best ways. You'll be rooting for her as she learns that even she has room for improvement. If Stephen King wrote middle grade fiction, he might come up with something like this, but not as good. If you long for something familiar but refreshingly new, pick up this ready-made children's classic, which comes complete with beautiful illustrations that evoke favorite adventure stories and mysteries from your childhood. But don't be surprised if you notice dark things flitting about in the shadows or feel tiny legs crawling up your arm. Don't worry, this book doesn't bite. Just keep reading.
This book is a deliciously creepy delight that will have you up at night, reading under blankets with only a flashlight. (And maybe a stuffed unicorn, to scare away all the night beasties!)
I can't stop thinking about the main character, Victoria, with her perfectly-lined-up pencils and her carefully labeled boxes and her shiny awards. I wish I could travel back in time twenty years and give this to my nerdy perfectionist childhood self... it would have made for a week of sleepless nights but it would have been sooo worth it to read about Victoria.
The villain and fantastical elements in this are shiveringly neo-Gothic in a lovely Neil-Gaimain-esque way, this book begged to be illustrated and I'm so glad it has been by such a pitch-perfect artist!
Buy three copies: one for yourself, one to lend out, and one to give to your bestest friend.
It's hard to find words to express how I love this book. I managed to lay hands on an ARC of this one, started reading it last night, and finished it this morning. It's so well-paced, and frightening, and thrilling. It's Neil Gaiman and Roald Dahl and Maryrose Wood and a tiny bit of R. L. Stine, mixed together and served up in a glorious combination of horror, heart, friendship and fantasy. I found myself gasping and laughing, and turning pages as fast as I could... do NOT miss this book. It is, in a word, exquisite.
Absolutely charming and gorgeous story about a girl you can't help but root for all the way! I wasn't expecting to be as creeped out and horrified by some of the story as I was--but I LOVED it. This is horror middle grade and Claire knows exactly what she's doing. Victoria reminded me a lot of Mary Lennox from The Secret Garden who is my favorite, so of course I fell in love with her too. Definitely a top middle grade read!
The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls foi o primeiro livro que li para o #KidsRUs2017 e é uma mistura de Fantasia e Terror. Foi o primeiro livro de terror infantil que me fez sentir tensa e só por isso já ganha uns pontinhos. Victoria e Lawrence são amigos improváveis. Ela é a menina perfeita, melhor aluna da classe, sempre aprumada, adora a ordem; ele é uma criança à parte, que ama o seu piano, anda sempre com aspecto desleixado e a madeixa branca nos seus cabelos pretos tende a incomodar as pessoas perfeccionistas que habitam na cidade. Um dia Lawrence desaparece. Victoria é a única que dá pela sua falta, não acreditando na desculpa que os pais de Lawrence dão. Uns dias depois, outro aluno da escola de Victoria desaparece. Mais ninguém parece notar o seu sumiço, a não ser a nossa protagonista que, quando pensa nisso, se apercebe que têm desaparecido várias crianças e que a vida tem seguido normalmente. Na sua busca por Lawrence, Victoria esbarrará com o Lar Cavendish para Rapazes e Raparigas. E mais não posso contar 😝 Mas é assustador que desapareçam tantas crianças e que ninguém note. Que ninguém se interesse. E o final.. Subiu-me um friozinho pela espinha acima. Recomendo!
Admittedly, I picked this up because of 1) the autumn vibes and 2) the blurb said it was similar to the Mysterious Benedict Society. It's a middle grade horror, though, which is a very different flavor to MBS and to what I normally read. Despite this I thought the majority of it was okay - nothing groundbreaking, but a nice October weekend read if you're in the mood for the horror version of mild salsa.
The ending ruined the resolution though, so - two stars.