[This is a good review. I promise.]
Before I talk about The Journal of Curious Letters, I have to say something about the only other James Dashner book I've ever read. Dashner has a series of four books, the Jimmy Fincher saga, that begins with A Door in the Woods. I bought this book because one of my children (then in 5th grade) really liked it.
I so hoped that I would like A Door in the Woods because I'd met James Dashner a couple of times and he's a very funny and likeable guy. Unfortunately, I was disappointed. While the basic plot was good, there were a few places where it got cloudy and confusing. I didn't much care for his writing style—written in first person, Jimmy Fincher would refer to himself as "scrawny," etc.—things kids would not really say. I felt the author was trying to force it, and sounded a little too much like an adult trying to talk like a kid. There were also some typos and grammar mistakes, more than I think a published book should have. While I'm sure 5th grade boys love this book (and the entire series, for that matter), it didn't cross over into a story that older teens and adults would like. (IMHO)
So when The Journal of Curious Letters came out and it starting getting a buzz about it, I was a little reluctant to plunk down the bucks to get it. First, it's hardcover, therefore a little more expensive. Second, I love fantasy and nothing ticks me off more than a poorly done fantasy story. Third, I really like James Dashner as a person and I really wanted to like his book, but I was afraid it was going to be too much like the Jimmy Fincher series for me. My plan was to check it out from the library, but it was on terminal hold. So. When I found it on sale ($2 off is still a sale), I gritted my teeth, bought the book and hoped for the best.
Boy, howdy! Was that the best $15 and change I've ever spent! I LOVED THIS BOOK! (Yes, I'm yelling it—ergo the capital letters—in a very high pitched squeal—ergo the colored text.) In fact, this is my favorite book so far this year.
Okay, so here's a little bit about it:
What if every time you made a choice that had a significant consequence, a new, alternate reality was created — the life that would've been had you made the other choice? What if those new realities were in danger? What if it fell to you to save all the realities?
Atticus Higginbottom, a.k.a. Tick, is an average thirteen-year-old boy until the day a strange letter arrives in his mailbox. Postmarked from Alaska and cryptically signed with the initials "M.G.," the letter informs Tick that dangerous--perhaps even deadly — events have been set in motion that could result in the destruction of reality itself. M.G. promises to send Tick twelve riddles that will reveal on a certain day, at a certain time, at a certain place, something extraordinary will happen. Will Tick have the courage to follow the twelve clues M.G. sends to him? Will he be able to solve the riddles in time? Will Tick discover the life he was meant to live?The first volume of an outstanding new children's fantasy series, The Journal of Curious Letters is filled with adventure, humor, riddles, and, oh, yes — danger. . . As M.G. warns Tick, Very frightening things are coming your way. Will you join Tick and his friends on an amazing journey through the Realities? What will your choice be?
I read some reviews of this book that say, "there are chunks of text that are overwritten" and "moves a little sluggishly." I disagree. There were slower parts, but that gives you time to catch your breath. The characters were fun and funny. I really liked Tick's personality. I like that he lives at home with both his parents, in a loving family. The plot is solid; it surprised me with unexpected twists and turns. Some of the "clues" were really tough to figure out. (Okay. I confess. Some I couldn't figure out on my own but I'm not a genius like Tick.) I liked that the magic was somewhat tied into science. And the book gave us a satisfying ending while still leaving us leaning (if not hanging) over that proverbial cliff while we for the next book.
I absolutely LOVED this book and give it a whole-hearted 5 out of 5!
(If James Dashner reads this review, I hope my raving endorsement of The Journal of Curious Letters makes up for my negative comments about The Door in the Woods. So why did I start this review with those negative comments? Because other fantasy fanatics I know didn't care too much for The Door in the Woods either. We've talked about it. I want THEM to know that The Journal of Curious Letters is VERY GOOD. That it's worth the money to go BUY IT. Also, this is NOT a paid endorsement.)