by James Bow
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novel
“It won’t be easy, Rosemary,” said Puck. “You will face dangers only your imagination could dream of.”
“I don’t have an imagination,” said Rosemary.
“Of course you do. What else would be attacking you?”
Rosemary Watson is seeing ghosts — not spectres that rattle their chains, but strange characters that fold out of existence as though they were made of paper. Stranger still, these characters seem somehow familiar, and they want something from her.
When her older brother Theo comes home, Rosemary realizes she is not the one who has lost her mind. But who has stolen her brother’s sanity, and what must she do to get it back?
With the help of her new friend Peter McAllister and her otherworldly guide, the faerie shapeshifter Puck, Rosemary must face the storybook perils of the Land of Fiction, and learn to open her heart, before it is too late.
(synopsis from Goodreads)
It says something about a book when you read to the second-to-last chapter and then just can't bear to read another page. I read the last few pages of this book today, after starting -- and nearly finishing -- it more than a month ago. I wasn't expecting any sort of redemption; I didn't get any, either. In fact, things got even worse. I didn't think that was possible.
For the most part, I didn't have any problems with the technical aspects of the writing. However, the plot, dialogue, characters, and message left a lot to be desired. I think my overall impression was one of cheesiness. The plot made no sense (and got even more confusing at the end; if it was all about Rosemary's mind and hang-ups, why was her brother the one who had a nervous breakdown?). The characters were melodramatic in their speech, and yet they lacked any real emotion. I felt like I was reading about robots who had been programmed to act like humans. It all seemed a bit juvenile (even though it's supposedly a young adult title). And the whole tone of the book seemed condescending and pedantic; it reminded me somewhat of The Explosionist, with an author who seemed to have no desire to tell a really good story, but only wanted to demonstrate how clever they are.
This book really bothered me, so I thought a lot about it and came to the following conclusion: this should never have been a novel. It should have been a graphic novel. The cheesiness, the lack of emotional character development, the weird settings and events (all those zeppelins!), the hackneyed dialogue: all of these would have worked better with panels of illustrations rather than pages of text. But since the wrong choice of format was made, the book failed. I can't recommend this one at all.
Overall: 1.43 out of 5