Sunday, October 20, 2013
Review: Far Far Away by Tom McNeal
The tale, which is truly in the form of all fairy-tales, vacillates from the whimsical to the macabre. The main characters Jeremy Johnson Johnson and Ginger Boultinghouse get lulled in a Hansel and Gretel type setting and fall into the hands of maniacal madman they thought was their friend. Even Jacob Grimm, who is stuck in the Zwischenraum (the space between life and death) doesn't recognize that the children are in danger until it is too late to warn them.
Jennifer Brown interviewed the author, Tom McNeal, in School Library Journal (June 4, 2013). Please go and read the whole interview but in the meantime here are a few takeaways: Most fairy tales have very flat, one-dimensional characters. McNeal wanted to write a longer version of a fairy tale that allowed his characters to grow and learn; Jacob Grimm, a ghost, is the narrator which allowed him to know things that the average narrator wouldn't. He enjoyed writing the voice of Jacob. (And I enjoyed listening to him as read by Sheppard.) The story had to be set in a time before modern technology because too much time would have to be taken up explaining cell phones and the Internet to Mr. Grimm.
The story begs the readers to examine some of the quandaries of life: how to we know the difference between a good person and a bad when the lines are blurred? Is it possible for kids to have healthy relationships with adults other than their parents? Why are bullies always portrayed as unchangeable in YA lit? And lastly, and maybe the most compelling question of all, how do stories nourish and enrich our lives?
Though I have described Far Far Away as a fairy tale it could also fit into other genres of literature. Its genre could be horror, fantasy, romance, historical, and/or adventure. Miriam Budin writing for SLJ says "Whether readers connect more deeply with the suspense, the magical elements, or the gloriously improbable love story, they will come away with a lingering taste of enchantment." I agree. As with most books which have a happily-ever-after ending I found myself sighing with satisfaction as I finished it In fact, I wanted to give this book six stars out of five on my Goodreads page. There is so much to love (and hate) in Far Far Away, don't let the fact that it is a modern fairy tale keep you away.
Far Far Away is a BSD Mock Printz selection. I checked out the audiobook from my public library.