Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Hardcover 384 pages
Received E-Arc from Publisher through NetGalley
Published June 1st, 2013
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Goodreads Synopsis- It says quite a lot about Jeremy Johnson Johnson that the strangest thing about him isn't even the fact his mother and father both had the same last name. Jeremy once admitted he's able to hear voices, and the townspeople of Never Better have treated him like an outsider since. After his mother left, his father became a recluse, and it's been up to Jeremy to support the family. But it hasn't been up to Jeremy alone. The truth is, Jeremy can hear voices. Or, specificially, one voice: the voice of the ghost of Jacob Grimm, one half of the infamous writing duo, The Brothers Grimm. Jacob watches over Jeremy, protecting him from an unknown dark evil whispered about in the space between this world and the next. But when the provocative local girl Ginger Boultinghouse takes an interest in Jeremy (and his unique abilities), a grim chain of events is put into motion. And as anyone familiar with the Grimm Brothers know, not all fairy tales have happy endings. . .
Ah Fairy Tales....I love them for all their weirdness and beauty and timelessness and did I say weirdness. Yes, this one starts out very weird. I thought it was too literary for me to enjoy. The stuffy Jacob Grimm narrates and he waxes prosaic about his lost brother and his time in the world after his death trying to find his way to his brother. Yes, I thought it was just going to be a little too much for me. I was wrong. Very wrong. Jacob Grimm basically lives one of his own fairy tales as an almost silent observer.
The characters in this story are numerous but only a few stand out. I will limit who I describe to Jeremy Johnson Johnson and Jacob Grimm.
Jeremy is a bit nerdy because all he does is study. But when you have a ghost telling you "studies, studies" all the time and you know your only ticket out of town is college and a scholarship, then you know you should study. And he's weird because he once told someone he hears voices. But he does and we know he does because we can hear Jacob Grimm talking to him throughout the novel. But, unfortunately, Jeremy has a tendency to talk to Jacob out loud and that makes him look even weirder. And Jeremy lives with his father in the back of the Two Book Bookstore which, as you may have guessed, sells only two books, the first and second volumes of Jeremy's grandfather's life story. Business isn't good. And, as if you need more to make a boy look weird, Jeremy's father stays in his room all day watching t.v. since Jeremy's mother left him. Life has not been kind to Jeremy. But he's a good boy, studies hard, is kind to everyone, friendly, wary, industrious (he has a lawn service business) and he takes care of his father.
Jacob Grimm's Ghost- Jacob's Ghost somehow got stuck on Earth after he passed away. He's been told by other ghosts it's because he's searching for something, but he has no idea what. He thought his brother would wait for him, but none of the other ghosts have seen or heard of his brother. Finally he determines that he needs to go to Never Better a place that can barely be seen but once found can never be forgotten and he must protect the boy, Jeremy Johnson Johnson from the Finder of Occasions. Jacob also takes it upon himself to be a sort of moral compass for Jeremy and tries to make him not do certain things because he has a bad feeling about it. Yeah, we all know how that goes.
The world- Never Better is a strange place. There seem to be children that disappear frequently, yet parents don't watch their children overly much. There are dark alleys and an old woman that searches the night for her lost son Possy. There is a police deputy that lurks everywhere, seemingly perverted spying on girls, the townspeople, anyone he can blackmail. There is a jolly baker with a generous hand with his baked goods. But there's a darkness that overlays even the simplest of moments in the town. Something lurks behind the windows and the trees and the trashcans. It follows you home, even in the bright sunshine. There is a timelessness to the town as well. Certain references date it such as game shows and bikes and trains, but truly I would have thought it could have taken place in Jacob Grimm's time.
The Story- Ginger Boultinghouse takes an interest in Jeremy Johnson Johnson and this makes Jeremy Johnson Johnson take an interest in her. After a few days of her showing interest, she shows up in his window at night and dares him to pull a prank. Not being the pranking type, it goes awry and Jeremy is implicated in it. The townspeople turn viciously against Jeremy and then begins a sort of twisted Hansel and Gretel story. Very,very twisted.
What I thought- As I said, the first time I tried to read it, I thought it was very literary and I was not in the mood. I picked it up again and was enthralled. I really couldn't put it down once I got past the first part and I understand why the first part is there. Just don't think the whole story is like that. It is definitely a contemporary fairy tale, a dark one. There is magic and a love story and a ghost. And a definite tribute to The Brothers Grimm. But it's definitely creepy and dark and you know something isn't right, but you can't quite put your finger on it. When it happens I hope you'll feel the same sense of desperation I did. I had no idea how it would turn out and I was amazed at how twisted and dark this tale turned in such a short amount of time. But things that had happened before started falling into place. And seemingly innocent things from before turn into dire warnings unheeded. Even Jacob Grimm falls victim.
I definitely recommend this for lovers of dark twisted tales! It's a contemporary fairy tale (no fairies) along the lines of the Brothers Grimm. This took me totally by surprise and I'm going to search out more of Tom McNeal's works.
I received a copy of the e-arc from the publisher through Net-Galley. All reviews are my own and are my honest opinion.
Young adult veteran Tom McNeal (one half of the writing duo known as Laura & Tom McNeal) has crafted a novel at once warmhearted, compulsively readable, and altogether thrilling--and McNeal fans of their tautly told stories will not be disappointed.
More info on the author- Website