"If you listen close, you can hear the world waking up." - Hazel Fenneby, The Book of Secrets
I love this book.
It is a book with a message, it is a book with power, it is a book that means something. It is a book that breathes.
The Book of Secrets jump-starts with a prologue that is crammed with the most delicious, whimsical fantasy world-building ever. If you don't like whimsy, you're not going to like this book. If you adore it (like me) this book is going to send you into the seventh heaven.
But by saying it’s crammed with world-building, I don’t mean that the prologue is an info-dump. Not at all. It's just juicy with tidbits, and at the same time pulls off one of the most exciting and question-inducing hooks I've ever read. You'll be asking them, too. Who is the man from Caravel? What happens to Gabriel and the stone?
This one-of-a-kind story revolves around the Draven family, and specifically thirteen-year-old, undersized Gabriel Draven. From the first page onward, M.L. Little knit me to this oddball family. None of the children quite fit in anywhere. They all cope in their own unique ways, so subtly conveyed that the reader never has to be told they’re coping — which is the way of all truly good writing. Ren and her hunting, independent and somehow neither girlish nor tomboyish, just her very own person hiding so much beneath the surface. Gabriel, intelligent, creative, and too curious for his own good… then too scared to face the consequences. Hollis, a peculiar nine-year-old bookworm, seeking entertainment in whatever innovative way he can get it. Dale is quite the most normal of the five, providing a sensible backup here and there, though he doesn't play much into the story; but if you watch him closely enough, you get to love him too. And Patch, the adorable, childish youngest, with a strange perceptivity for his six years. I dare you not to love Patch.
Plot: unique, complex, and jumpy — just like Gabriel. It could easily turn dizzying with the many geographical leaps (that's what happens with a time-traveling stone!), but M.L. Little carries it off with a skillful balance of dialogue and character bonding.
World: a winsome mashup of punks and eras that shows the glory of a writer who isn't afraid to use fantasy in its fullest potential. The world of Glennerdells works, in its funny combination of trains, horses, and photography. Don't try too hard to explain it. It just needs to be.
This beautiful story is classified as middle-grade/early YA, but it’s really one of those books that are ages 9 - 99. I read TBoS in its earliest form and loved it, and now that it is polished and perfected I love it more than ever. If you want a world of rough-and-tumble, of mystery, family, and heartbreaking beauty, pick up The Book of Secrets. You will not regret the read.
This review was first posted on Goodreads. Read the original here