Becky's Reviews > Eleven

Eleven by Patricia Reilly Giff
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's review
Jun 12, 2008

it was ok
bookshelves: children-and-ya
Recommended for: kids age 8-10
Read in June, 2008

On the eve of his 11th birthday, Sam sneaks into the attic to try to find his hidden birthday presents -- and finds a lot more than he bargained for. A mysterious collection of papers includes a newspaper clipping featuring a picture of him at age 3, along with the headline, "MISSING."

Sam's comfortable life with his grandfather Mack and their friends suddenly seems suspect. Is Mack really his grandfather? Or did Mack kidnap Sam from his real family? The papers in the attic aren't much help, because Sam can't read.

With the help of a new friend at school, Sam begins to piece together information from the papers. Old memories begin to resurface as well, and Sam begins to realize that the place from which he was taken was not a good place, but he's still not sure where Mack fits into his life. He begins to make references to the places named in the newspaper clipping, to see if his grandfather and their friends will react.

Eventually the truth is revealed, helping Sam to understand his disturbing memories of slamming doors and angry voices, as well as the meaning of the "missing boy" news clipping.

This book moves fast -- maybe too fast? The "missing boy" news clipping is introduced before we're even given a sense of Sam's home life, which is solid. Characters are lightly sketched (I also felt the children acted quite a bit older than 10 and 11, but maybe I'm just behind the times?), and the plot is more loosely constructed than one might expect for a book that seems to be a sort of junior thriller. I felt that everything was sort of glossed over. There's not much suspense here, not even in the fragmented dream/memory sections interspersed throughout the book.

I did like the subplot of Sam and his friend having to build a castle as a class project (Sam can't read, but he's a gifted carpenter), and I liked the way their friendship grew during the course of the book. Overall, however, I'm afraid this light read won't stay with the reader much past the end.
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