Okay, it's not Harry Potter, but it's enchanting in it's own way. The characters are well done, and the story is clever.
Having thoroughly enjoyed the first Chet & Bernie mystery, I was delighted to find the second, and I was not disappointed. Again, the character of Chet comes through and rings true -- dog lovers will recognize the mannerisms and behaviors in their own dogs. And even if he tends to repeat himself or wonder off into wild tangents, well, dogs do that! The mystery was a bit better this time, too.
Let me state first that I'm way too old for books like this, but I've found a great deal to admire in young adult and juvenile fiction lately. On more than one occasion in the first part of the book, I thought about stopping, but I am so glad that I didn't! Sam's escapades are just fun -- and maybe they take you back to a time when you misunderstood terms and phrases that adults use that just don't make sense to a literal thinker! Sam is a real charmer!
It's not that the book is horrible, but it just doesn't carry out the promise in the title or blurb. There are some good moments of humor as well as pathos and crisis, but it's mediocre fare.
I really enjoyed the first book, partially because Ramone de Ocampo does such a brilliant job as narrator. And he does a great job in this sequel, but I find I have more and more difficulty trying to sympathize with the main character. Okay, he was a whiny little brat in the first book, but the schtick starts to run thin in the second. I read in a review of the first book that it really helped to see the drawings that accompanied the text in the book version -- I didn't know that there were drawings!
Kids may enjoy the book -- and there were some really good moments in it, but adults will tire of this character quickly.
Okay, so maybe the mystery wasn't so mysterious -- it was still good. But the true pleasure of the book was hearing it through the voice of the faithful dog! Chet comes across as a dog, through and through, and dog lovers will recognize him and see so much of their own faithful companions in him that they will be as charmed as I was. Yeah, it was a little bit disappointing that Bernie didn't get the mystery quicker, but he did keep at it -- dare I say -- doggedly! And if things depended a little too much on luck, these things do happen! I look forward to the next Bernie & Chet mystery!
Despite the fact that the characters in this book are 14, the book was obviously written for the preteen or tween set. The book has a certain number of the "young audience" fantasy archetypes: the kid stuck in cruel circumstances, the wise mage to lead him on his quest, the evil enemy bent on controlling the world -- and thus, quite accidentally, destroying it. But the nature of Foo -- the land where all human dreams come from, makes this a little bit different.
I will not tell you it's great, because it is not! But younger audiences should appreciate and enjoy it.
My only real complaint was the euphemisms that the author used for various parts of anatomy -- gherkin was very overused! The story and the narration were excellent. I've often wondered what would happen if girls really understood boys and vice versa, too bad it can't really happen!
Charlie writes letters to an anonymous "friend" describing his life and his attempts to make it through High School. Through these letters, we see a loner who's last days of middle school were marred by the suicide of the one kid he felt close to and his inability to stop crying about it. More than that, we see a boy who lives on the fringes until a teacher takes interest in him and pushes him to "participate in life" rather than just watching it pass him by. Taking a chance, he makes friends with a group of seniors who adopt him and grow to care for him a great deal, and he comes to feel the same way about them, but Charlie has some long-standing issues, issues that the author deals with beautifully, carefully and accurately describing anxiety disorder and depression and the effects that they can have.
I must confess that I was not prepared for the final revelation at the end, and it hit far too close to home for my comfort, even though it dealt with difficult issues and situations with sensitivity. In a way, the author was a bit too accurate here, and I fear this book may not be appropriate for young teens. And, even though it left me with some internal turmoil, I did enjoy this book very much.
I very much enjoyed the book. The writing was well-done, the characters were interesting, and the story was just off-kilter enough to provide both humor and pathos. The narrator even does a pretty good job, presenting conversations in the kind of monotone that kids often use to relay such conversations. And I especially liked the way the author described and dealt with anxiety disorder and panic attacks.
I see that other reviewers complained that the ending did not really resolve some of the issues. I didn't mind, I figure the kid has a few more years to settle those, and by then, he'll have a whole different set of issues!
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