25 August 2012

The Journal of Curious Letters

I finally finished The Journal of Curious Letters! 
It only took two renewals from the library and a very long phone conversation last Saturday for a third renewal but I finished it! 

I wasn't as fresh off The Maze Runner as I would have liked to be, but one of the first things I noticed was that the writing was very different. The Maze Runner, if I had to categorize, is a mid-teen young adult books. That would place The Journal of Curious Letters somewhere in pre-teen/early teenworld. What does that even mean any more? In my head, I'm thinking maybe 8-12. 
I am basing that on the style of writing, the themes present in the book and the over all progression of events. 

It is a story that starts with our main character, Atticus (nicknamed Tick) Higginbottom, receiving a "curious" letter telling him that the world is in danger but that he can help! What a crazy thing for a kid that gets picked on all the time to hear! And of course, like any good hero, he has a choice: to help or to ignore the letter.  And, as a good storyteller would do, James Dashner has Tick accept the challenge and we start on an adventure into the Realities. 

Tick receives letters in the mail from a mysterious MG, each one a clue to when, where and how they will meet and further discuss saving the world. A nice twist to the story is that Tick isn't the only one receiving letters. He meets up with a few other kids and together they figure out the clues and talk about the interesting things that happen to them. 

I will be honest: I wasn't terribly riveted by this book. What I found most interesting is the completely different way James Dashner told this story. It was evident in both the writing and story line that this was not going to be a watered down Maze Runner book. 
Some authors can seamlessly write a book for children that adults find wonderful. Harry Potter is case in point. The story, the characters, the writing--it wasn't dumbed down so only children could understand. I had more talks with adults. come to think of it, about the books than I ever had with children. We talked about our favorite characters and plot twists, as well as the moments that made us cry. 
But J.K. only really wrote the one series. Sure. OK. The Chronicles of Narnia. C. S. Lewis wrote children's books as well as academic books and "adult" books. There was a bit of a difference, but the quality was the same. 

It almost seemed like there was a fire missing from The Journal of Curious Letters that was always present in the Maze Runner. As I was reading I kept thinking that this book would be good for pre-preteens. It gives them a character their age (that gets the be the hero and is a rather "normal" even boring kind of kid), introduces them into a fantasy that seem possible, and puts them in harrowing adventures. For my taste, too much focus was put on the letters and the events leading up to the harrowing adventure rather than on saving the world. (Very reminiscent of the last Twilight book where we spent the whole book on the verge of an epic battle...that never took place. Major letdown.)

I will not be pursing the rest of the series, but will keep it in mind for kids who aren't sure they like to read, are feeling kind of left out in life, or are interested in trying a new genre. I might recommend it for boys (as Tick is a boy...) and I seem to have trouble finding books to recommend to young men that don't have girls as the star of the show. But as a girl who is really into fantasy, I have gotten used to boys running the show (Harry, Frodo, etc.). [ Ok so they don't always run the show. There is Buffy and Katniss, too. Just...oh never mind!] 
Next up: The Wizard of Earthsea? That would be nice. My friend just gave me Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children and I am itching to try that. I also got Pilgrim's Regress and The Children of Hurin out of the library at church...this past May. And I haven't gotten to those either... 

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