Readings from a book lover, teacher, teacher-librarian.
Des lectures d'un bibliophile, enseignante, enseignante-bibliothécaire.
To start with, I love the cover of this book, but I remain confused: I believe the character on the left is Melanie in her mother's coat, with Jade Rat on her shoulder, and I'm guessing that the character on the right is her mother, though I say that only from the scarf and the facial similarities. What confuses me, or perhaps just annoys me, is that this scene never happens in the book. So while it's a compelling image, it doesn't actually relate to anything in the narrative, which to me is a failure in the design. I have a different problem with the illustration on page 183 which depicts the scene on pages 185-6. That's sloppy editing in the proofs. The image should interrupt the narrative instead of being placed in the convenient blank space at the end of the preceding chapter.
As far as the story goes, I generally liked the concept and parts of the story were compelling. I cried, for instance, when the Melanie wakes to discover her mother still missing and when the crows arrived at the penthouse. But I found the reliance on deus ex machina excessive; I have to agree with Aristotle that it's a device relied upon only in inferior dramas. The right thing showing up at the right time did not add to the fantasy of the novel for me, but only highlighted how the fantasy of the novel wasn't fully-wrought enough to allow the plot to move forward with such a device. I wasn't annoyed by the first fortune cookie, that seems appropriate that a fortune would be personalized to some extent, but the raccoon with the magic 8 ball was particularly stupid. Now, perhaps there's some allusion there that I'm especially missing that precludes having Melanie just trip over it being more useful, but really? I had no problem with the magic 8 ball in the story itself, but why the raccoon? To foreshadow the rodent transformation of the pendant? (That doesn't even work...raccoons aren't rodents.) And there's no logical relation between raccoons and crows for there to be a connection there. Being followed by crows in no joke though. The local family of crows doesn't like me (they try to nest next to my balcony), so I'm keenly aware of the gaze of crows and it can spook me easily. The description of crossing the chasm on their backs is an image I won't lose quickly.
In terms of plot, I also found the immobilization of Mr. Glueskin derivative of Oz. Materially it makes sense that ice would work, but it seems far-fetched to me that no one would have figured that out by now. Was he really so careful in the past to have waiters drop the ice buckets before eating them? He seems too impulsive for that to be likely.
I did enjoy the characters though. They weren't fully wrought either, but Melanie's doubts and fears are well presented, especially for a YA audience. The opening scene in particular is resonant for that age group, though perhaps finding solace in a bookstore is less so. Her revelation that she need control only her choices in chp. 13/14 struck me as a didactic bit of narration, however. Though an important realisation, I think I was most annoyed by the fact that she doesn't reach many conclusions herself. She doesn't seem to reach any form of independence or self-actualization in the story at all. Even in the fog at the end (one of my favourite scenes), she's following the voices of others who are telling her where to go. I think the fog is really the perfect metaphor for much of adolescence: feeling pulled in directions you aren't sure are correct, trying to resist, not always succeeding and having to find "That small, hidden place where she was so completely Melanie there was room for nothing else." (p. 202) That's a fantastic line, but I guess my main quibble with the story is that while the narrator tells me that place exists in Melanie, I don't feel as if I'm ever really shown what that place means. I don't feel I really know Melanie. So for her to have found herself is great, it's not a satisfying characterisation for me. I feel left out of what's apparently the most significant personal discovery she experiences.