Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Review - 100 Cupboards

100 Cupboards (100 Cupboards #1)
by N. D. Wilson
Date: 2007
Publisher: Yearling
Source: bought from Chapters

Twelve-year-old Henry York is sent to live with his aunt and uncle on their farm after his parents disappear.  The town of Henry, Kansas is small... but it's been keeping some big secrets.

One night, in his attic bedroom, Henry discovers a bunch of tiny cupboards under the plaster of the wall.  There are 99 of them, plus two compass knobs that spin.  Henry soon discovers that these are no ordinary cupboards: they actually lead to other worlds.

I started this book ages ago, then got sidetracked by a few other things (including The Hunger Games series) and only just finished this one this morning.  There's a reason: the pacing was awful.  This was a middle grade title, and I have a hard time believing that an 11-year-old kid would bother to slog through the boring first half of the book.  Not a lot seemed relevant.  The whole tumbleweed episode just seemed to take up space and didn't really have anything to do with the plot about the cupboards.  I was actually past the halfway point before the story really got going... and then I couldn't put it down.

Once Henry went through the cupboards for the first time, I was hooked.  There's a nifty little drawing in the front of the book with a key to the 99 cupboards (plus the compass knobs).  That aspect of the story reminded me a bit of the Myst video games, which is kind of cool.  All those worlds -- some good, some not so good -- have the potential for so many story angles.  100 Cupboards is actually the first book in a trilogy (the remaining books being Dandelion Fire and The Chestnut King).  I'm kind of curious to read the whole set now... as long as the other books have better pacing than the first one.  I guess a lot of the nonsense in the first half of 100 Cupboards was to set up certain aspects of the plot, but still... it was too long.

I wasn't crazy about some of the characters, either.  I'm guessing this book is geared toward boys, because the girls were portrayed as kind of stupid, weak, and reckless.  I did not like Uncle Frank.  He gave me the creeps.  Between the sexist way he treated his daughters (by favouring Henry over them), his violent poetry outbursts at the breakfast table, and the way he talked to yelled at his wife ("Quiet, woman!"), I wondered if he wasn't one of those men who beats his wife and kids when nobody's looking.  No, I did not like Uncle Frank.  I didn't mind him so much by the end of the book, but I still wasn't impressed with him.

The writing was fairly solid, though, and Henry was likable enough (even if he had been sheltered to the point of being an outright sissy by his parents).  There was some decent (albeit somewhat unrealistic) character growth in the main character, which is about all you can ask for (especially in the first book of a trilogy).  I'm not sure if middle graders would actually stick it out until the story got going.  But in the end, it turned out to be a pretty good fantasy story.

Plot: 3/5
Characters: 3/5
Pace: 2/5
Writing: 4/5
Originality: 5/5

Overall: 3.4 out of 5


  1. I pretty much agree with you! I wasn't thrilled by it, but I have had several 7th grade boys that have really loved it. I guess they are the target audience!