Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Book Review: Reckless by Cornelia Funke

My son is in a Mock Newbery Club, where a group of middle schoolers read and discuss as many of this year's Newbery-eligible books as possible, then select the book(s) they think should win before the actual winners are announced.  Since the Newbery Awards are decided in January, it is crunch time for the Mock Newbery Club.  I've been sending my son to bed with a new book every night, trying to catch up with all the great possibilities for this prestigious award (we're SO lucky he is such a quick and perceptive reader).

I haven't read nearly as many of the contenders as he has, but I try to read what I can, particularly those that are favorites of:  (1) my son; (2) my son's club; or (3) the general buzz I get off of the Internet.  And while I'm trying to stay out of his selections of favorites, I'll probably be writing a number of reviews aimed towards parents of middle schoolers in this blog for the next month, since this is a priority for us right now.

So today's review is of the book Reckless by Cornelia Funke.  I'm quite a fan of Cornelia Funke.  I can't believe that her books, which are written in German, sound so poetic in English, with such compelling characters and concepts...that she illustrates herself.  Sigh.  I would settle for being poetic, compelling, or illustrative.  While I think she is most famous for her Dragon Rider series, I believe my favorite of her books (at least, up to now) is The Thief Lord.  I really liked the concept behind the Inkheart series, but I couldn't get beyond the first book; in that one, the bad guy was SO bad, and it seemed to me to take too long to get to his inevitable removable, that I had no stomach for the rest.

But this year, Funke released Reckless, the first in what appears to be another series.  And this book may be my favorite of them all.  But, like the review I wrote of The Golden Compass, I'm not sure this book is appropriate for middle schoolers--or at least those in the early middle school grades, like my son.  Now, he could "read" it OK; he finished it, but didn't enjoy it, calling it "dark" and "depressing."  But I think some of the mature topics went over his head.  I know I appreciated it a lot more than he did.

Reckless combines many of the same themes as her previous books: orphaned brothers, an alternative world that exists parallel to "normal" life, literary allusions, etc.  But in this book, Funke has tapped into the dark side--like the original GRIMM Brothers' version--of fairy tales.  The alternative reality (which is called "Mirrorworld" in this book) is dark, but classically romantic, filled with love (gained, lost, and frustrated) and witches and war lords and unicorns and shapeshifters and dwarfs and familiar characters altered in interesting ways.  But probably my favorite aspect is that, like (in my mind, at least) The Thief Lord, it is hard to tell who is good and who is bad (as opposed to Dragon Rider or Inkheart, which present much more black and white characters).  It is an intriguing and complex world...at least for more mature readers.  But, again, I think the subtleties are missed by the average 6th or 7th grader.

For example, there is war involved, and prejudice, and revenge.  Also, there is a whole subplot about characters....well, let's call it "having marital relations" without having the benefit of being married.

Personally, I thought it was a really beautiful and interesting book.  But had I read it before him, I would have encouraged my son to wait a few years before reading it so that he could really appreciate it.

If you want some more information, you can check out the website for the book, or else this video trailer (an interesting new option for books---but that's a subject for another blog post).

1 comment:

  1. This intro into the book is so true. Jacob's father has disappeared, no one knows where. His mother is always sad. His younger brother Will is often frightened. But Jacob has found a secret world, a world that can be entered through a mirror in his father's study - a room forbidden to him by his mother. Twelve years have passed since Jacob first discovered the strange two-mooned world through the mirror and Jacob is now running out of time.