21. The Unwritten Girl by James Bow
Author: James Bow
Series: book one of The Unwritten Books
Publisher: Dundurn Press
Publication Year: 2006
Price: $12.99 CAD, $12.99 USD, £6.99 GBP
TBR Status: neutral. I added this after 1 Jan 09
The Official Series Website
Review copy provided by the author.
Rosemary rarely finishes a novel. She loves books, but she can't stand to see characters suffer. The moment things start going sour, she quits. She's much happier in the fact-based world of nonfiction. But when her brother, Theo, gets sucked into a book, Rosemary finds that his survival rests on her ability to navigate the treacherous world of fiction. Can she overcome her aversion to novels before it's too late?
I don't mind telling you, I was a bit nervous going in to this book. I've recieved review copies from publishers, but never from the author. James Bow very kindly sent me the whole series, plus a family member's YA fantasy. What if I disliked them? What if I didn't have anything nice to say? Argh!
Thankfully, that wasn't the case. THE UNWRITTEN GIRL didn't blow me out of the water, but it was still a solid and entertaining read.
I initially agreed to review the series because the synopses reminded me of the sort of Canadian children's lit I loved when I was little. I got a real Carol Matas vibe from the descriptions, and I was all over her books when I was nine and ten. I'm pretty sure I'd have loved this book at that age, too. I'm not sure that it has as much crossover appeal for adults who read children's lit, but kids are going to get a real kick out of this.
At least, kids who read will. Rosemary comes up against a number of different challenges as she travels through the Land of Fiction, all of which have firm roots in genre traditions. She faces off against a set of shapes from a children's picture book, a knight from a fairy tale, a haunted house, a train of mystery... you get the picture. Young readers who're already familiar with these sorts of stories should have a lot of fun disecting them and trying to guess which book each reference comes from. Teachers, too, may find that they can use THE UNWRITTEN GIRL as part of a unit on different types of stories.
I also really liked Rosemary's family. Her parents are great, and her little sister's brief appearances are just adorable. I appreciated how Bow dealt with some darker themes, too; Rosemary and Peter come up against issues like mental illness, parental death and sacrifice, even as they hobnob with dancing squares and child detectives.
On the down side, I did feel like Bow could've gone deeper in some areas. I wasn't particularly concerned about Theo, for example, as we saw so little of him. We know that he's had some emotional problems in the past and that his family worries about him, but we don't spend enough time with him to form any sort of a connection to him. It also would've been nice to see a little more of the budding friendship between Rosemary and Peter. What we do get is very nice, but I think there was room for a bit more.
Overall, though, this was a quick, enjoyable read that I'd recommend to young readers. (It's marketed as YA, but I got more of a middle grade feel from it). If your kid isn't old enough for Jasper Fforde but would enjoy the literary setting, this could be the book for them. (I'll be passing my copy along to my little cousins, who seem to have gone book-mad when I wasn't looking). And to top it all off, it's likely to scare the younger set into finishing every book they start.
Big A Little A
Eclectic Close: Random Thoughts & Ponderings
Postcards From the Mothership
Teens Read Too
The Written World