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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Time Stoppers by Carrie Jones. Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2016

Annie and Jamie are both abused children. Annie has been taken from one dreadful foster home to another as long as she can remember, while Jamie is living with his horrible father and grandmother. They're basically what in the US is known as "white trash" and, incidentally, are trolls, as he discovers for certain when his grandmother comes after him with a knife and fork. Annie's latest foster home is in a trailer with - well, more white trash, of the human variety. While they aren't planning to eat her, they do lock her out in the snowy back yard with their wolf-dogs, ordering her to teach them tricks before they will let her back in, as they watch TV all day.

When Annie is rescued from trolls by a dwarf girl in a magic snowmobile,  she learns that she has powerful abilities that might help her to save the magical town of Aurora. Jamie is rescued at the same time. He's not, as far as he knows, magical, and he might turn into a troll some time after his thirteenth birthday, a worry that hovers over him the whole novel.

 The novel, incidentally ends on a cliffhanger, which  should mean a sequel. No guarantee - if a sequel was committed to, there would be a blurb for it at the end. Even the author's web site doesn't mention when a sequel to this one is likely, though it does call it the first in a series, so be warned!

Carrie Jones is better known as a YA novelist; I read one of her novels, After Obsession, years ago, and remember liking it, but not what it was about. We do have some of her other books in my library. This middle-grade novel was her first, which I'm assuming was left in the bottom drawer till now.

It is entertaining and has the odd in-joke, such as calling a teenage elf boy Bloom(as in Orlando?). The humour is over-the-top, as are most of the characters. I thought it interesting that trolls can live in the regular human world without anyone noticing, because they can do a Hulk and change into green monsters when they feel like it. The elf boy can go to school and play baseball in the small town of Mount Desert, where the town librarian is also a magical being, who lives on both sides of the border, with a Brounie wife in Aurora and a house in town. There's no Hogwarts or H.I.V.E for the kids to attend. I quite like that.

However... here are some things that didn't quite work for me.

Aurora is in danger from a sort of dark lord who has been exiled, but now his minions are getting through the barrier because the protective garden gnome has been stolen. Yes, the magical refuge of the witches, Brounies, dwarfs, etc. is protected by a garden gnome! We're never told why, either. Did Miss Cornelia, owner of Aquarius House, perhaps enchant it to protect her people? Is it more than it seems? We don't know.

But I think I do know who stole it.

The odd thing is that it takes most of the novel and an encounter with an evil blood-sucking book before Jamie suddenly connects the stolen garden gnome with one his grandmother brought back from a troll hunting-party.

I was hoping to find out why so many of Annie's former foster homes burned down, but we're not told - if it was to do with her powers, we never find out. We do know that when she draws a rabbit it comes to life, which got her into trouble in various former homes, but that's all.

Characters who are knocked unconscious snore. In other words, if you faint or are knocked out, you go to sleep? And, in some cases, have to be woken up?  Unlikely, I'm afraid.

Still, I think there's enough action, adventure and humour to keep children from about nine to twelve reading and enjoying. It has an endearing silliness about it that makes it worth reading, despite the oddities.


Lexa Cain said...

It sounds adorable! I've noticed that with picture books, chapter books, and MG, often the more ridiculous and unlikely the things are, the more the kids like it -- and the less adult readers do. I've heard adults say A Wrinkle in Time was their favorite book as a kid, but when they re-read as an adult, they found a lot of flaws and can't remember why they loved it. It's pretty awful the author left it on a cliffhanger with obviously un-tied up plot threads, and yet there's no sequel in the works. :(

Sue Bursztynski said...

Yes, when I read a children's book which has silly things in it I remind myself it was not written for me! This one is a bit junior for even our Year 7 students and will be going to the local primary school.

The lovely Sonia Palmisano of Bloomsbury has assured me the sequel will be out in June next year, so that's okay, except for the poor librarian who has to keep explaining to young readers that they have to wait a year to find out what happens next!