CW: parental death, neglect, and violence
This book left me shouting at myself: “WHY DIDN’T YOU READ THIS SOONER???” I bought it, like, in 2014 at a Half Price Bookstore. I thought the cover looked super interesting and that the story sounded cool. Then, I put it on a shelf and never picked it up again. I looked at it, thought it might be good to read, then never read it.
Finally, I changed that.
I decided I was going to read it and stuck to it.
Generally, the book follows the story of a young boy named David. The story is, generally, set in wartime London. His mother passes away from a disease that’s never named — personally, I thought it was cancer — and he’s left with his father. His father, however, has fallen in love with a woman who helped take care of his dying wife. She falls pregnant and they get married. His father is a professor who is helping with breaking the Nazi codes, so they move to his new wife’s family home.
But, things aren’t well. David feels like his mother’s forgotten. He and his stepmother don’t get along. He can’t get along with his new sibling. His father spends more time alone. He starts seeing this Crooked Man — who I pictured as the Babadook — in his room.
Then, one day, he slips into a fairytale world. That’s when the adventure begins.
David meets the real people from the stories and finds that things are different. As he continues on his journey through the realm, trying to find a way to get home, he grows and learns.
I loved that this was a coming-of-age story. I think that authors who write adult fiction write the best ones because they look with hindsight. This is an adult book. There are some adult themes. But I wouldn’t hesitate giving it to a mature middle schooler. I really think that this book could be read and enjoyed by anyone and everyone.
I think the only thing I didn’t like was that it ended far too soon. I mean, the ending nearly got me crying, but I didn’t realize that around 100 pages of the book was just going over the fairytales that Connolly used in it. I’m not a big fairytale kind of guy, so it was a bit boring and disappointing to see that, although I appreciate that the author really cared about his book and the research that went into it.
This book definitely is one of my favorites of this month. I’m so glad that I finally read it!
What’s your favorite coming of age story?