This was a delightful birthday present from Susana (thank you!!!). I had my eye on this book for ages - I'm quite shallow, I'll be the first to admit it, and pretty book covers are my siren's call. Mostly, what ends up happening is that the saying "Don't judge a book by its cover" proves itself right more often than not.
But not with The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls!
Legrand has a gift for spooky descriptions:
"For a flash of a second, Mr. and Mrs. Prewitt’s pretty smiles changed into enormous, wolfish grins. Mrs. Prewitt’s fingers clutched her bowl so hard that it smashed into pieces.
Hundreds of fat black berries rolled across the floor like bugs. Victoria stared and wondered if they really were bugs, because some of them seemed a bit . . . leggy."
Speaking of bugs, the book has an amazing presentation: scattered throughout its pages you are bound to find creepy bugs that will catch you unaware and freak you out.
But it's not just the spooky descriptions that are wonderful: the characters are incredible. Victoria, in particular, is amazing. She's the model child: perfect grades, perfect looks, perfect manners. So she decides to make sloppy, weird, head-in-the clouds Lawrence her very special project.
Not that he's interested in being her project...
So, at lunch one day, Victoria marched from her lonely table to Lawrence’s lonely table and said, “Hello, Lawrence. I’m Victoria. We’re going to be friends now.”
Victoria almost shook Lawrence’s hand but then thought better of it because she feared he might very well be infested with lice or something. Instead, she sat down and opened her milk carton, and when Lawrence looked at her through his skunkish hair and said, “I don’t really want to be your friend,” Victoria said, “Well, that’s too bad for you.”
In a spooky, gloomy prose, Legrand explores themes such as friendship and the importance (or unimportance) of conforming to societal expectations. Pretty heavy stuff for a kids' book, but it doesn't feel like that at all, the writing is that masterful!
Also worth mentioning are Sarah Watts' illustrations, that match the eerie atmosphere of the book and are just lovely.
This is one of those books, that hadn't Isa read it, and praised it to the heavens, I probably, wouldn't have read it.
The combination of the tags, middle grade (are you nuts?) and horror, would have pretty much kept me away from this..
What can i say?
Things that are bound to end up gory, pretty much bore me...or scare me (depending on the amount of blood involved)!
And then normally i consider myself too old for stories in which the lead characters are under the "eighteen year old flag".
Yes, i know, i'm an idiot...especially because Victoria and her merry (not quite) gang are more mature than a vast assortment of new adult or even full grown up characters that have been plaguing (a little like cockroaches, yes!) the literary market our days, with their: Oh, woe is on me....
And i tell you, not reading this would have been a shame, because this is one of those gems that a reader occasionally is lucky enough to find!
The writing is absolutely superb!!
The characters are complex and interesting.. well, Victoria especially, is just bigger than life! In a planet kind of way...(.but don't tell her i said THAT!!)
She's probably the most intelligent and rational twelve year old that i've ever "met"!!
Of course she's also bossy, manipulative, and a control freak!
She doesn't take it easy on us readers. She is the way she is. Take it, or leave it!
The mystery was just downright scary! And....ugh
So be prepared...do not trust the whole "middle grade" tag...reading this, (no matter how old you are....well, unless you're a psychopath) will leave you absolutely terrified...
The only reason i don't give it a five, is simply because i wanted more info on the psychopath lady, her friend the gardener..and yes, the bugs!
Claire Legrand's official site
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The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls