Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Review: January by Gabrielle Lord

Conspiracy 365 JanuaryTitle: January

Author: Gabrielle Lord

Pages: 185

Challenges: Read 'n' Review challenge

First Sentence: "It was the wild, billowing black cloak, streaming behind the menacing figure, that first caught my eye."

Summary (From back of book):
On New Year's Eve Cal is chased down the street by a staggering, sick man with a deadly warning...
They killed your father. They'll kill you. You must survive the next 365 days!
Hurled into a life on the run, with a price on his head, the 15-year-old fugitive is isolated and alone. Hunted by the law and ruthless criminals, Cal must somehow uncover the truth about his father's mysterious death and a history-changing secret. Who can he turn to, who can he trust, when the whole world seems to want him dead?
The clock is ticking. Any second could be his last.

My Two Cents:
I received a copy of this from a friend of my husband's family who sells the Usborne books. This is the first in a new 12-book series, one each month this year, aimed at upper juvenile readers. My husband's cousin has read this book and raved about it to me over Christmas, so I figured I'd give it a shot.

The story itself is engrossing enough. Cal is playing football (Or soccer, as we say here in America) with a friend on New Year's Eve when a man staggers up to him and warns him of the Ormond Singularity and the danger in which Cal will find himself for the next 365 days. This warning sets off a series of pretty crazy events, including a boat wreck, two kidnappings and two attempted murders. And that's just in the first month.

Cal's father, who died of a mysterious viral brain disease a few months before the book opens, claimed to have found a secret that would change history and make the family a great deal of money. But, he doesn't get the chance to tell anyone before the disease begins to eat away at his brain, causing him to only be able to create a series of cryptic drawings that Cal must now piece together.

I really like this concept, and the story sounds great. Anything that can get a kid hooked on reading and potentially keep them coming back for 11 more tries at this character and story is fine by me. The writing, however, was less than stellar.

Sure, I understand that juvenile fiction is supposed to be written at the level of the kids it's aimed at, but some of the dialogue and description was just a little tedious.

For example:

I looked at Mum as if to say, "Tell me it's not true!"
"She's right," Mum whispered. "There were months' worth of house payments left in the account. There's nothing now."
I couldn't speak. I stood watching Mum comfort Gabbi, holding her close, smoothing her hair, telling her it was going to be all right.

I also didn't really get a feeling for Cal as a character. He just seemed to be this kid who had lost his father and received a dangerous warning, but there was really nothing else to him. Not exactly what I like to see in a main character, especially a main character I'm being asked to follow for 12 books.

For what it's worth, though, I think this would be a great book for kids who may be reluctant readers, or for kids who might want a little bit of history thrown into their reading. There wasn't much history in this volume, but I get the feeling there will be more in the future.

My rating: 5/10


Stephanie aka The Stark Raving Bibliophile said...

That opening line is definitely an attention grabber! Thank you for your honest, fair and balanced review. It is a shame the writing isn't better. I am no expert, but I always feel struggling or reluctant readers need to be exposed to excellent writing, even if they have trouble with a few words or phrases.

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