I loved Edward Eager as a kid, but I don't think I had ever read this one before. And now I see why I either didn't read it or blocked it out of my meI loved Edward Eager as a kid, but I don't think I had ever read this one before. And now I see why I either didn't read it or blocked it out of my memory. Too saccharine overall, even if the kids themselves are sometimes funny. ...more
In the end I'm a little less enchanted by this than I was in the beginning. There was a lot of setup that would have let this story go Gothic or YelloIn the end I'm a little less enchanted by this than I was in the beginning. There was a lot of setup that would have let this story go Gothic or Yellow Wallpapery or Alice in Wonderlandy, but instead it didn't really go to anyplace, so the high stakes did not feel high enough at the climax. They're also not settled in a way that will be satisfying for modern readers, I don't think. I don't mean a book has to tie up every little loose end, but usually in historical fiction, (view spoiler)[by the end you expect to come to understand what the twenty-first century diagnosis of the early-twentieth century illness is, and that never really comes with much clarity, which makes the threats by the doctors a little too wild and off-base to be truly terrifying, even though mental health treatments in the last century were indeed horrifying. (hide spoiler)]You can see every twist in character identity coming, which I'm not convinced is a problem, since I'm an adult who has read many books, and kid readers necessarily have not, so they will probably still be surprised by them, but it's still a thing. I'm left feeling like this was a disappointing book by an author whose next book I'd like to read....more
When I heard about this book, it sounded like a Kindred readalike, and I imagine that in the hands of a black author, it might have been. Instead, itWhen I heard about this book, it sounded like a Kindred readalike, and I imagine that in the hands of a black author, it might have been. Instead, it was a premise that lived up to about half its potential. It's a really interesting idea, and nothing was egregiously offensive, so points there, but it's definitely a feel-good book about racism for white liberals, and if it were a movie I would be as interested in it as I was in The Help, which is to say zero interest. But I did read it, and the first two thirds of the book had an interesting setup. The essay by the art critic that talked about it being impossible to determine whether a drawing of children was of white or black children was the whitest of white things to say, just like white people who think that if you don't mention a character's race, it means they can be any race (NOPE). It was also weird how a lot of master-slave rape and mulatto/quadroon politics were vaguely alluded to but not engaged with, and by weird I say classic white person, but at least not as delusional as the way people talk about Sally Hemings.
I felt that the last third of this book was rushed and went from being a book questioning art and theft and suppression of black metaphorical freedoms to a fast-paced mystery, and that didn't work on a craft level, even if it was engaging to read and harder to put down at that point. Two books smashed together here....more
Like, I was into it, and then I wasn't, but I obviously was enough to keep reading until the end? So I just don't know. For a book that was a bitidk.
Like, I was into it, and then I wasn't, but I obviously was enough to keep reading until the end? So I just don't know. For a book that was a bit overlong, I think it was too evenly split between mental illness and supernatural, which meant that neither was convincing (maybe that was the point? but in that case, I don't like the connecting of one with the other). I was glad to find out in the end that (view spoiler)[Mala wasn't real, because I kept seeing candomblé and other stuff in it and wondering what the hell was going on, but I'm not sure I liked that choice of "making up" a religious practice like that when it so closely resembled real ones anyway. (hide spoiler)]
I found all the male characters interchangeable and personalityless overall, and while I could see that the point was that the doctor was a terrible one, I'm not convinced all readers would understand that as the intent. Not that books should teach lessons, but still.
This is probably made more difficult by the fact that I was reading the ARC, and with such a complex format, any errors are really screwy. There were a few dates that didn't make sense (a diary entry about an event, followed by emails mentioned in the diary that have a date a week later, and then the rest of the event happening on the previous date) and a few underlines that actually looked like editor's marks, not ones made by the protagonist.
Basically I liked this enough to want to read another book by the author, but I'm not sure that this was ultimately a successful novel....more
This was conceptually great. The whole "Stephen King writing Little House on the Prairie" is an apt description of the premise, though King is far betThis was conceptually great. The whole "Stephen King writing Little House on the Prairie" is an apt description of the premise, though King is far better at craft. This book had inklings of greatness with ideas of gender, shitty boys, and family dynamics, but it felt like I was reading a first draft of the book. I was also bothered by the writing, which read like kids affecting pompous accents for a game of make believe (not to mention myriad grammatical errors). The pacing was off, though I could see where it could have been great. Again, the only problem with this book is that it's a manuscript more than a final draft....more