Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Review: The Book of Lost Things

The Book of Lost Things (Mister Max, book one)
By Cynthia Voigt, illustrated by Iacopo Bruno
Expected publication September 10, 2013 by Knopf Books for Young Readers

Max's father is a bit of a braggart - he is an actor, after all - and he is always ready for adventure. So, when a thrilling opportunity presents itself, he seizes it - and (perhaps unintentionally, perhaps not) Max is left behind. Faced with proving his independence, Max takes some of the skills he has learned from his father and puts them to use - as Mister Max, a mysterious figure.

This was another galley I requested as part of my quest for more middle-grade. Additionally, having listened to Young Fredle, I was interested in trying another Voigt story. Unfortunately, I feel mostly ambivalent about this one as well.

I had a really difficult time getting into this one and it's basically out of sheer stubbornness that I finished it. I didn't particularly care for the characters or the story, but I felt committed, so I persevered. Much like Young Fredle, Max's story is very episodic, something that I think appeals to a particular kind of reader - the kind of which I am not. Some of Max's adventures are broken up into acts like a play - I assume this is meant to be a clever little feature of the story, as Max's parents own a theatrical company and are both leading actors. However, to me, it seemed as if the acts were there to break up really long episodes into smaller parts. Additionally, the act I of a story is not always immediately followed by its act II, making this sometimes a bit difficult to follow. I sometimes found myself just getting invested in the first act of a story only for it to end and be introduced to the first act of a different story. A bit frustrating for me as a reader.

Also similarly to Fredle, I found Max an easy character for which to cheer. That doesn't mean that I really cared all that much about him, though - if I had just flipped to the end and discovered that everything would be mostly okay for him, that probably would have been just as satisfying for me as trudging through the whole book.

What bothered me the most about this book and is the reason for the majority of my negative feeling around it is the incredible degree of suspension of disbelief required to read this book. The whole time I wondered where the authorities were, how it was possible that no one noticed Max's parents were gone and Max wasn't in school, and why his grandmother was okay with this whole scheme and not more alarmed at events in general. Reflecting on the book now, I imagine it is supposed to be set in a historical time period, which may explain why no one notices that Max isn't in school, but there were still too many unbelievable bits for me.

Overall, I find myself echoing my sentiments regarding Young Fredle - a good book for the right kind of reader; unfortunately, that reader was not me.

Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via Edelweiss.

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