(Original review posted on my livejournal account
)Why I Read It:
I came across this title the same time as when found What I Was by Meg Rosoff: they were both on a bargain clearance table for $2 each, for the hardcover! At this point, I had only read The Blue Girl by de Lint, and while it didn't blow me away, I had still heard so much about him and his Newford series that I decided to pick it anyway. It's not like it could hurt with it being so cheap. I read this during my reading week because while I was visiting my boyfriend Jacob, we had decided to go see the new Studio Ghibli film The Secret World of Arrietty, which is based off the children's book The Borrowers, which I'm sure most of you know, is all about little people. So, I thought this book would be very fitting to read before seeing the movie. :)
This is the second YA title that I've read by de Lint, the first The Blue Girl, and I have to say, from what I remember of the latter, this book reads more like it's for the younger spectrum of YA (despite some of the cussing -- but, young teenagers DO cuss, so). This didn't hinder the enjoyment I got from it, but it still left me with a feeling of LIKE, not LOVE.
One of the things that really bugged me about the book was the dialogue. I had this complaint with The Mystery of Grace as well, so I hope that this isn't something found in a lot of de Lint's work, but there was something wooden about a lot of the dialogue -- it just felt really unnatural at times. Other times it was perfectly fine, such as when Elizabeth is navigating the fantasy market and is speaking to the denizens there (those were some of the my favourite parts), but when Elizabeth and TJ converse, there was something about it that just didn't ring as realistic to me.
That's my only real complaint about the novel though. Everything else ranged from mediocre to pretty darn good. The story alternates between a third-person limited POV from TJ's perspective, to a first-person present tense POV from Elizabeth, and I think that this worked really well -- the first-person voice of Elizabeth fit her personality to a tee, and the present tense allowed her to tell the story as it was happening to her, so we got to experience all the newness SHE experiences at the same time, and I think that was effective. While the third-person POV of TJ's chapters fit her more passive demeanor (as opposed to Elizebeth's feisty one), it definitely made her pale in comparison, which is too bad because her story is all about coming out of her shell and being more assertive.
Some of my favourite parts of the novel was where the urban fantasy aspects really came in. I haven't read enough Newford books to really get a sense of what de Lint's urban fantasy world is like, but the pieces we got of it here were really fun and I enjoyed them immensely.
I also like the parallelism between TJ and Elizabeth's narratives: they're both essentially alone, and both very vulnerable in a completely new world (Elizabeth outside of TJ's house, and TJ going from the country to the city) and must learn to navigate, both while making friends on the way who help them out. The friendship between the two girls was cute as well, and even though we as readers don't get to read about them spending time together too much, I still bought their friendship and it felt fairly genuine (despite some of the aforementioned wooden dialogue).
Overall, it was a really cute read and while it didn't blow me away, I still liked it.Final Verdict:
Despite some of the dialogue feeling wooden and less-than natural for me (though this wasn't the case ALL the time; I felt it was more evident between Elizabeth and TJ) this was still a cute and fun book. The dual narratives worked well for me, as well as the parallelism between Elizabeth and TJ's narratives. I also loved the glimpses I got into de Lint's Newford urban fantasy world; I'll be excited to see how it spans out in other Newford books, because even though I haven't fallen in love with anything I've read by de Lint yet, I was still want to check out the rest of the Newford books.