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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

"Far Far Away" by Tom McNeal (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)

Visit Tom McNeal's Official Website Here
OVERVIEW: 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, specifically, 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..

FORMAT: Far Far Away is a YA novel that is a mix of fantasy, suspense, horror, and fairy tales. There are subtle hints of the Brothers Grimm stories throughout. Far Far Away stands at 384 pages and was published June 11, 2013 by Knopf Books for Young Readers.

ANALYSIS: This is the strange and fateful tale of a boy, a girl and a ghost.

From the moment I read these opening words, I was captivated and drawn into this novel. Far Far Away is a truly unique, beautifully written YA fairy tale, though not your average 'once upon a time, there lived a princess/fair maiden/etc.' This is a modern day, suspense-filled novel that will captivate the attention of not only teens, but adult readers as well.

The narrator of this novel is Jacob Grimm, yes of the famous 'Brothers Grimm'. He is a ghost who has been given the mission of watching over a rather young boy, Jeremy Johnson Johnson, whom readers meet when he is approximately 14/15. Jacob Grimm tells of his observations, encounters, and activities, while providing the reader with a full understanding of everything that is going on.

In many ways, Far Far Away is like a story that would be told around the campfire. It has a narrative quality to it, without making it appear stale, boring, or stiff. Tom McNeal does a wonderful job of practically grabbing the reader's attention from the first few pages and never letting go until the long after the last words of the novel have been read.

The characters in the novel are relatively 'fleshed' out. There are some obvious holes in character development or times when I was wondering 'but what about …..', but as with any fairy tale readers are not privy to every tiny detail of information.

An example of this was the whole situation with the young girl and her grandfather. I wanted to know why he didn't like her, what their relationship was like, etc. This was never explored, but there were enough details provided that I was able to use my imagination. Maybe not everything needs to be spelled out for readers.

I really enjoyed the tip of the hat to previous fairy tales. Not the Disney versions, but the real versions. It wasn't so obvious that it took away from the story, but there was just enough references and little hints here and there of the Grimm stories that I found it tasteful and enjoyable.

It should be warned that this novel is not one that starts off with a 'bang' and drags you on an adventure. Readers will be taken on an adventure, but at a slower, more leisurely pace. There was never a moment that I started to get bored with the book, so the pacing is spot on, but people expecting action and adventure at every turn will be disappointed.

There is an entire feeling of mystery and intrigue throughout the novel. I won't say that it was confusing or so mysterious that readers won't know what is going on, but there was a feeling that I HAD to read on to know more. I was simply swept up in the novel. In fact, there was a few times where I was biting my nails because I was nervous or anxious about what was going on in the novel.  I was that into the novel.

Overall, this novel took me by surprise. It isn't your typical supernatural novel/fantasy/horror novel, but a unique blend of all types of genres wrapped into one. The timeless quality of this novel means that you could read it today, tomorrow, or in 10 years, and still get the same results. It truly is one of my top novels for 2013, one that I will be sure to read again and again, and something any fairy tale lover, Grimm Brothers fanatic, or just people who enjoy a good story should read.


M R Mathias said...

Great review.

Cindy said...

Thank you! I loved this book. I hope others will too. I can't stop talking about it!

krystal said...

I liked the book too! I wrote about it here:

I especially liked the ghost-as-narrator thing! Very unique and added to the mysterious atmosphere you noted in your entry.

Anonymous said...

What was the boy who was also kidnapped by the baker? I can't remember his name!

Anonymous said...

I loved this book, though! And, like Cindy, I can't stop talking about it!


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