Published: October 2, 2012I rarely, if ever, read middle grade books. I feel I'm too far removed from that age group to truly enjoy them. So when The Spindlers showed up in my mailbox, I was a bit surprised (and, if I'm being honest, put off.) But it's Lauren Oliver, so I knew I had to give it a chance. I hadn't read her other MG, Liesl & Po, though Carla did send it to me sometime last year. (I KNOW, CARLA, I'M SORRY!)
HarperCollins, hardcover, 256 pages
Goodreads Summary: One night when Liza went to bed, Patrick was her chubby, stubby, candy-grubbing and pancake-loving younger brother, who irritated and amused her both, and the next morning, when she woke up, he was not. In fact, he was quite, quite different. When Liza's brother, Patrick, changes overnight, Liza knows exactly what has happened: The spindlers have gotten to him and stolen his soul. She knows, too, that she is the only one who can save him. To rescue Patrick, Liza must go Below, armed with little more than her wits and a broom. There, she uncovers a vast world populated with talking rats, music-loving moles, greedy troglods, and overexcitable nids . . . as well as terrible dangers. But she will face her greatest challenge at the spindlers' nests, where she encounters the evil queen and must pass a series of deadly tests--or else her soul, too, will remain Below forever.
So I open up The Spindlers and off I go. SURPRISE! It's about spider-people. Or people-spiders. WHO CARES which one, they have eight legs. And Liza is dead-set on finding her brother, Patrick, whose soul was stolen by the spider-monster-people. Or "The Spindlers," as they're officially called. You know that children's book "The Monster at the End of this Book?" I had this sense of impending doom the whole time, because I don't want to meet the spiders. I DON'T. But I kept reading anyway.
Of course people have differing opinions about Lauren Oliver, but we can all agree that her writing is fantastic. Especially her world-building. The Below was fascinating with so many creatures and features and a talking rat, Mirabella, who is super vain and wears lipstick and wigs. Mirabella grated my nerves a little, however. She was irritating with her constant repeating of things. I think she was supposed to be endearingly neurotic, but she just made me crazy. The fact that so many creatures were Below was great, but the moments they were around were so fleeting that I kind of feel they weren't relevant. And the characters, in general, were not fleshed out enough in 256 pages. I think there was just so much cramming so many different creatures and scenerios into a minimal amount of pages that the characterization suffered.
For the target audience, The Spindlers will be an absolutely fabulous read. I will be passing this off to a younger cousin, because it's LAUREN OLIVER, and kids deserve quality reading. It fell short for me, but that doesn't mean it won't light up the face of a young'n. Personally, I'll stick to Oliver's delicious kissing books.
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