Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Far Far Away (review)
At first I thought Far Far Away (Goodreads | Amazon) was a cute borderline middle grade book about a lonely outcast boy with a ghost best friend. But I was wrong. Far Far Away is something more complicated than that, toeing the line between young adult and middle-grade, but not quite either. The early parts of the books are sweet and oozing with sentimentality, the latter parts drip with creepiness. This book is like a good old-fashioned fairytale, seems like it's for children but the longer you look at it the creepier it gets.
Jeremy Johnson Johnson lives in a strange little town Never Better. As if his mother skipping town and his father never leaving the house didn't make him enough of an outcast, Jeremy can also hear ghosts. Luckily for him, the ghost is the famous Jacob Grimm--yes of the Grimm Brothers--who keeps him company and gives him encouragement. The relationship between Jeremy and his ghost is sweet and believable. They need each other and care about each other. Nobody else can hear Jacob except Jeremy and nobody understands Jeremy but Jacob. In each other they find solace and a place to belong.
Things start to change for Jeremy when he's befriended by Ginger. She is everything Jeremy is not, loud, boisterous, full of life and popular. But despite stereotypes, Ginger has a kind and caring soul. What might have originated as pity, grows into friendship and maybe even first love. It has all the stumbling tenderness and sweetness of first love. Best of all it builds slowly and is never quite defined.
But this book takes a turn for the creepy. I cannot say more about that because it involves spoilers, but just remember this is a fairytale, specifically modeled after the type of tale the Grimm Brother's told.
This book, narrated through the eyes of Jacob Grimm, is original and unique. It's hard to define the genre as middle grade, young adult or even adult because it's the story of a boy but told through the eyes of a very old ghost. In some ways like fairytales themselves, it's ageless. It's about both of them discovering themselves, finding freedom in being themselves and their adventures in a town that doesn't quite seem to be real. This is another recent read that falls into more of a magical realism than fantasy category, which is a fictional resurgence that I can get behind. The juxtaposed otherness of Never Better, yet it's similarity to every small town, create an delightfully creepy atmosphere that could be anywhere, real or not, and anytime. That backdrop and the fairytale-esque story combine to create an enjoyable and creepy read.