Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Needful reading?

The problem with teachers is that they're always telling you what to read. They mean well, of course, and I guess that's what we pay them for, but for those of us who love books it really gets in the way of what we really want to read. And since I earned three different degrees and attended part-time for much of my college education - which felt like an eternity - I spent a lot of time being told what to read. But in between degrees I devoured a lot of what some teachers might call rubbish, and for a while I was really into stuff like Dean Koontz and Stephen King. But only recently did I read anything that reminded me again of those books, and surprisingly it was a YA book.

Twelve year old Victoria is perfect and practical in every way until she gets a B in music. Not only is it an ugly smudge on her otherwise perfect record, it's a huge personal embarrassment. The only thing that comes close is her best friend, Lawrence. Well, he's more like a 'project' for Victoria to see if she can get him to tuck in his shirt and comb his skunk-like hair and stop obsessing so much about his stupid piano. But when Lawrence goes missing - and neither his parents nor anyone else seems too worried about it - she suspects it might have something to do with the strange orphanage at the end of the street. She also suspects she might care more about Lawrence than she thought.

The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls by Claire LeGrand (which I received from Amazon Vine) is nothing if not creepy. Mrs. Cavendish and her Home reminded me a lot of Mr. Leland Gaunt from Stephen King's Needful Things. Both are manipulative and have a real mean streak, but while Gaunt is hell-bent on chaos, Mrs. Cavendish is striving for perfection and order. And if you like a creepy story this might just be right up your alley, but as I read it with my ten-year old daughter I found it a bit too dark. Kirkus Reviews called it a "heartwarming friendship tale," but the "friendship" part was buried under some torture, a little cannibalism, and a whole lot of general creepiness. Victoria isn't exactly an endearing character with her fussiness and superiority - which turns out to be a real parallel with Mrs. Cavendish - but she's likable enough. And the writing is very good, but for me it was just a little too dark and creepy - for a YA book, that is.  My little 10 year old Maddie seemed to really like it, though, and I'm not quite sure what to think of that!

No comments:

Post a Comment