Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Book Review: The Journal of Curious Letters


Genre: Fantasy
Reading Level: Ages 9-12
Publisher: Shadow Mountain (March 2008)

My oldest son is a voracious reader. He reads anything he can get his hands on, but his favorite things to read by far are fantasy books. As a result, we have a lot of them cycle through our house. The fantasy that holds the record for the fastest read is probably The Journal of Curious Letters by James Dashner. It took four hours for my son to read—from start to finish. And he loved it.

After that, I just had to read it for myself. The first book in a new children’s series called The 13th Reality, The Journal of Curious Letters is the story of Atticus Higgenbottom—Tick to his friends and family. Tick is a thirteen-year-old boy living a normal thirteen-year-old life until he opens his mailbox one day to find a yellow envelope addressed to him. This letter is the first of a number of clues that will reveal a special mission for Tick, which is not only mysterious but will also affect the entire world. If, at any time, Tick decides the mission is not for him, he just has to burn any one of the letters and all the strangeness will stop. To accept the mission Tick must unravel the riddles in each of the twelve letters before a certain time. And, almost more difficult, he must persevere despite increasingly bizarre happenings like run-ins with Tingle Wraiths, Gnat Rats, and strangely proportioned people with names like Mothball.

In an easy-to-read style, the book seamlessly moves from a mystery into the beloved fantasy realm, complete with alternate realities, an evil bad guy (or, in this case, woman), magic, scary creatures, and a quest to retrieve a powerful object. What gives the story a fresh take, however, is how Dashner spices it up with a little science fiction. As a huge fan of fantasy and sometimes fan of sci-fi, I really enjoyed the blending of the two. I can just imagine children across the country asking their parents about Quantum Physics.

I also really enjoyed the warmth and support of Tick’s family life, especially from his dad. One of the things that drives me nuts about many other children’s fantasy is how the characters refuse to turn to trusted adults for help. How many of us didn’t want to smack Harry Potter for not talking to Dumbledore sooner? In a refreshing break from the norm, Dashner has Tick enlist the help of his father, a truly lovable character who loves and supports his son. In a manner that will resonate with any parent, Tick’s father realizes that he has to let his son go and do what he needs to, but it’s hard.

Perhaps most appealing to younger readers, The Journal of Curious Letters is a fun, quirky, and delightful read that I am happy to recommend to anyone. I can’t wait for the next installment of the series.

For an added bonus, watch the Book Screener of The Journal of Curious Letters here! Now you want to read it, don't you?

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