Children’s Book Blog Tour – Something Wicked, 3

Last reminder: for those of you wishing to vote for the October CSFF Top Blogger Award, you can find the poll HERE.

I’ve had a lot of fun discussing Alan Gratz‘s young adult novel Something Wicked for the Children’s Book Blog Tour, but as yet I haven’t reviewed the book, so that’s where we’re headed today.

The Story. If you read yesterday’s post here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction, you already know this is a modern retelling of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Mr. Gratz has a tongue-in-cheek way of writing some of the time. The names of his two villains, for example, are Mac and his girlfriend Beth. A little obvious? Well, I didn’t get it until I saw the names together on one of the other tour participate’s posts. 😮

If you aren’t familiar with the storyline, there’s a good summary over at Wikipedia. Macbeth has more murder and mayhem than Something Wicked, but then it was targeting adults.

Strengths. Mr. Gratz is a skilled writer (he’s also either very thoughtful or quite a savvy promoter because he put a handwritten note addressed to me personally inside the ARC I received for the tour. I have to tell you, that didn’t hurt my thoughts about the book as I turned to chapter one.) I guess my main measuring stick for determining this has two sides. One is based on how I feel about the characters, and the other is connected to whether or not I think about the story when I am not reading it.

I’ll take those in reverse order. Something Wicked moved quickly and it isn’t a big book, so while I was reading it, there weren’t many away-from-the-book moments (except the ones when I was asleep or working), but I was surprised to find myself mulling over aspects of the story during the off hours. This is a mystery, for one thing, and I do love to contemplate the whodunit question. Yes, I was fairly certain I knew, but I couldn’t help wondering if Mr. Gratz would put his own twist on the old story.

As for the characters, they were so well portrayed, so believable, so real-to-life, it’s a little hard to think they aren’t walking around somewhere, finishing up high school while Mr. Gratz works on the next book in the series. 😉

I’m a believer in Donald Maass’s larger-than-life character elements that create engaging characters. In Horatio, Mr. Gratz has concocted one of the best examples of such a character. Here is a young man with decided strenths. He is witty, observant, and able to make intelligent deductions. In addition he ends up having to face an inner conflict he didn’t expect. Along the way, he shows amazing self-awareness, but still stumbles into some heartbreaking pits. Lastly, he has a snarky humorous streak that he unleashes from time to time, especially against bullies and other powerful people. To the kind, he is kind. To the weak he is helpful and compassionate and loyal.

Yes, Horatio is a strong character. Clearly, he makes the story.

Weaknesses. Well, the plot was essentially Shakespeare’s, and the character was brilliant. So were there weaknesses? I think of two, yes. One was the overt sexual material. As Mr. Gratz said in one interview, the sex wasn’t graphic (i. e. “on camera”). And it did serve the story as I pointed out on Monday. But there was some flashing and some grabbing and some bedding (without wedding) that I tend to think let’s teens conclude “everyone’s doing it.” As an adult, I wasn’t disturbed except when Horatio was happy when his friend began making obscene comments because he was back to normal. I don’t like teens thinking obscenity is normal. It’s common, but not normal. One of the mistakes our society makes is in thinking the two are the same.

A second weakness, in my opinion, was in not elaborating on the central greed theme. Maybe because of the economic woes of the past few months, I’d like to see greed exposed a bit more. Here was a story set up to do that, and I think it came across a little soft. This was one guy’s problem, and he went a bit nuts, partly because his girlfriend pushed him and his dad drove him to it. Hmmm, I wish there had been more.

Recommendation. This book is not for everyone. Readers who would rather not see the seamier parts of apparently upright society will probably not like this book. Mystery lovers who mostly like to figure out things along with the protagonist may be disappointed. But readers who love strong characters and who want to think about big issues like fate and parent/child relationships and greed and friendship—well, there’s lots in this book to like.

And of course, take time to read what others are saying on the Children’s Book Blog Tour:
the 160acrewoods, All About Children’s Books, Becky’s Book Reviews, Book Review Maniac, Cafe of Dreams, Dolce Bellezza, Hyperbole,, Looking Glass Reviews, Maggie Reads, Never Jam Today, Reading is My Superpower, Meagan.

Published in: on October 29, 2008 at 6:27 pm  Comments (2)  
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  1. thanks for taking the time to post this thoughtful review, Becky.

    I like your point about Horatio’s snarkiness. His snarkiness is endearing because it’s aimed at the right people.


  2. Thanks for taking the time to comment, Sally. Great tour. It’s always nice to discover a new author, especially one so talented as Mr. Gratz.



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