By M.P. Kozlowsky, illustrated by Brian Thompson
Published 2014 by Walden Pond Press
In the aftermath of a fire, Vince has become an orphan. But there was no evidence of his father perishing in the fire, so when Vince finds out that his grandfather has died, it becomes essential that he get to the funeral. What better place for his father to finally return to his life? Through it all, Vince carries his grandfather's journal, full of fantastical stories, as he sets out to find his family again.
Another entry in my efforts to read more middle-grade (and most of those seem to have been fantasy of some sort), this ended up being not a good book for me. I never got interested in Vince as a character and there aren't really any other characters to share the spotlight. Reading a lot of fiction for youth has gotten me pretty accustomed to plots developing rapidly but things seemed to be moving too haphazardly in this book. I don't think Vince was developed well as a character. I couldn't really understand his fierce belief that his father was still out there somewhere - yes, I understand that his remains weren't found in the fire, but he never gives an explanation as to what he thinks his father has been doing all the years since, nor why he would disappear in the first place.
There are two narratives being told concurrently in this book - that of Vince in the present day and that of his grandfather's childhood, told through his grandfather's journal. I didn't feel like the fit between the two was natural and the transitions were also awkward. I had problems with the storylines in both, as well. The tale of Vince's grandfather was just a bit too bizarre for me - I could never fully believe in it, but I felt like the book was working really hard for me to believe it. As I said, I never connected with Vince as a character, and I also found his storyline a bit too unbelievable. I had a hard time being convinced that the orphanage director wouldn't allow him to attend his grandfather's funeral - to the point where she was hunting him down after he left of his own accord. I also felt the plot with the criminals on the loose to be almost completely unnecessary. The ending is both ambiguous and a bit too pat, a strange combination that doesn't sit well with me.
Ultimately, this book was not a good fit. Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via Edelweiss.