So… regardless of the fact that I’m an adult, I just want to clear things up by saying that I’m not a “grown up.” I still like to live in the world of make-believe sometimes.
I guess you could say I’m a dreamer.
It is refreshing to pick up a book and read a fantastical story that takes place in a land unfettered by grown up worries–money problems, relationship problems, stuck in traffic, addicted to drugs, etc… (Why is being a grown up so damn negative?) In fact, some of the best stories that have ever been told are written for children. Look at Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (to name a very few.)
The Wikkeling by Steven Arntson is no different. While I’m not necessarily comparing it to the greats listed above, I will definitely say it’s new fare in the way of children’s literature. It takes place in a city called the Addition, and life is similar to our world, yet also very futuristic. Children aren’t jet-packing to school, but car horns have been replaced by Honk Ads, so irritated drivers spout product placements instead of beeps. Kids have cameras to watch them while they sleep. They are being monitored (by both their parents and the government) at all times via tracking cell phones that live update their actions. That means no hiddren report cards, no sneaking off to be alone with friends, no ever being completely alone. PERIOD.
So imagine young heroine Henrietta Gad-fly’s surprise when she discovers a secret attic in her old decrepit house that seems to defy time and space and allows her to be alone for the first time in her young life. Imagine her surprise to find a wounded wild house cat in said attic.
Not to mention learning that her only friends have been experiencing the same “headaches” that she has.
Or the fact that they are being stalked by an unknown monstrous entity named “The Wikkeling.”
I enjoyed this book. It’s rare that I read a book with pictures, but the illustrations by Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini are silhouette in nature and definitely add to the integrity of the story. I liked that Henrietta’s character was made out to be ugly and unpopular from the beginning, and the way Arntson pointed out that this was not going to change. It’s going against the typical notion that a girl must become beautiful and popular in order to live a good life and become a good person. Beautiful and good are not always synonymous, ladies. (Remember the Veelas from Harry Potter??) Conversely, although I liked how Henrietta’s character was shaped, I never felt particularly connected to her or her friends.
Above all, though, my favorite part was the obvious (to adult eyes) parallel to how our world is now and what it could easily become. All the constant worrying, materialism, discarding of the “out of date,” and technological upgrades make us lose sight of that which is truly important. Al (Henrietta’s adopted grandpa) is a prime example of a juxtaposition of the old world and the new. Definitely food for thought…
3.5 of 5 stars