Author: John Connolly Publisher: SIMON & SCHUSTER ISBN: 978-1-4424-2934-5
“High in his attic bedroom, twelve-year-old David mourns the death of his mother, with only the books on his shelf for company. But those books have begun to whisper to him in the darkness. Angry and alone, he takes refuge in his imagination and soon finds that reality and fantasy have begun to meld. While his family falls apart around him, David is violently propelled into a world that is a strange reflection of his own — populated by heroes and monsters and ruled by a faded king who keeps his secrets in a mysterious book, The Book of Lost Things.”
Right, so I dwelled into this book expecting ‘A Monster Calls’ meets ‘Narnia’, but what I got instead was R-rated brothers Grimm meet nightmares. I’m really worried, what kind of bed-time stories does Connolly tell his kids? ? But, it’s not bad, no. On contrary, the dark and grim events really made this book for me since it provoked such feelings and reactions. This is entirely my own subjective opinion, but I’ve always been a sucker for books that turn into a much darker theme, ESPECIALLY if I did not expect it (like Revenger by Alastair Reynolds).
“Once upon a time – for that is how all stories should begin – there was a boy who lost his mother. He had, in truth, been losing her for a very long time.”
I cannot stress enough how important first sentences are in a book. The first sentences are supposed to immediately draw in the reader to this world the author has created, thus it is vital that they catch the reader’s attention. If I’m in a bookshop considering to buy a book, I will read the first sentences and if I don’t like it, there’s an 80% chance I won’t buy the book. The Book Of Lost Things made me emotional after just two sentences, it just speaks of a tragic story one can imagine oneself. The follow-up line to the first sentence, “He had, in truth, been losing her for a very long time.” was what really struck in the heart.
David, the main character, starts off as a responsible boy, but still a boy. After losing his mother he tries to be strong, until another woman comes into his and his father’s life. He despises her for it, and it does not get any better when a little brother is on his way. David becomes more immature in his disapproval of a step-mother who actually tries really hard to be a good mother to him, and I won’t deny that it made him come off as a bit of a jerk. On the other hand, I’m not saying I don’t understand him. He’s just a kid who lost his mum and then suddenly a new woman comes to take her place. David is terrified of forgetting his mum, and that comes to affect a lot of his behaviours. But as the plot progresses and David are faced with several trials and hardships, he comes to grow in character. This is a ‘coming of age’ story, but one of the darker one. David is forced to do things no child really should have to do in order to grow up, but he does not break.
At times though in the beginning of his adventure I felt a bit disconnect to the main character. It’s hard to explain why with these things, but he just felt a bit lost to me in his characterization around that time. Though he was not completely lost to me, and in time I was back to cheering him on! Or just being really worried for him…
As for the plot, the beginning had me hooked (as you know of course), but at some times I felt like the story dragged on a bit. But this is something that is quite usual for these kinds of “travel to a different world” – adventures as the main character has a lot to learn about the new world, and thus dragging a bit. So it’s nothing new nor should it scare away a reader that likes those books. The world that David comes to is a mix and parody of the classic Grimm fairy tails plus Greek myths. ‘Parody’ could be applied to some stories, others I think it would be much more fitting to say that they were a lot closer to the original fairy tales by Grimm (as you know, are much darker than the Disney versions). And then when I started getting disturbed (but in a good way, I guess) by the plot, then I really got hooked. And I read this right after Coraline, who made consider a creepy kid’s book. There are so many disturbing things in this book, and since I hate spoilers, I won’t mention any. But let me just say that there are more disturbing things than death, and even death can be reached through more gruesome and… creative ways.
And man does this book have like the most disturbing villain(s). Seriously, there are a few pages about what the ‘Big Bad’ does and let me just tell you, if I was a middle-grader when I read this, I would be scarred. But that’s what made the villains great.
In summary, I really liked this book and have no doubt it will stay with me for quite a while. Even though I have to be honest and the ending was not as influential on me as the rest of the story, it did not downgrade the book. So I will no doubt recommend this book to other people!
You Should Read This Book If You;
- Love Grimm fairy tales
- Love YA with a darker twist (though I thought this was a middle-grade novel, and I actually think it is labelled as such, I really doubt that all middle-graders could handle some of the elements in this book.)
- Like books that have the main character transported to a different world
- Actually terrifying villains
- Gay knights
- Are not easily scared or creeped out
- Like coming of age stories
- Are a terrible parent and want to read your kids this book as a bedtime story
You Should Not Read This Book If You;
- Are under 12 years old. Okay you can read it, but it’s not really gonna be like those other books you’ve read from your genre (unless you’ve read adult books).
- Are disturbed by cannibalism, spiders, bloody (death) scenes and mentioning of disturbing sexual content. Though there are no sex scenes or so, the mentioning of a lot of things leaves it up to… imagination.
- Not really a fan of reading out of a kid’s perspective.
- Want romance??