I feel a bit like I'm double-dipping from my library; I have two copies of Cornelia Funke's Reckless checked out, one in hardback and one for my NOOK. But I need the hardback to convince my kids to read the book while I prefer ebooks if I can get them. I'm glad I had both copies of this 2010 Cybils Fantasy and Science Fiction (Middle Grade) finalist out because my seventh grader gobbled it up. Now that I've read it however I'm not as keen to pass it on to the fifth grader. His to-read pile intimidates him if it gets over two inches tall, so I'm very selective about what I place on it.
To be brutal, I found the book unpleasant. The concept is nifty: Jacob finds his father's secret passage to a magical kingdom but never tells his little brother about it. Little brother eventually finds it, gets in danger, and Jacob has to save everyone.
But little brother Will doesn't find the passage until they are adults, and he brings along his girlfriend (fiance?) Clara, and nobody really has any great magnetism. Will poisons himself within minutes of blundering through, and his brother is frantic to pull out a rescue that has never been done before. Clara is clearly in the way and will certainly slow them down, but she insists on accompanying them anyway. Which does indeed mean that they don't save Will in time, due in a large part to Clara refusing to believe that Jacob could possibly know more than her about this world in which he's been working for fifteen years. After all, she loves Will, and she's been in there several hours! Or days, since they don't move too quickly with her assistance.
I need to talk to my son about why he liked it so much, and maybe that will realign some things for me. The only redeeming quality I saw in Jacob was his loyalty to his brother; Will was too ill for most of the book to have much personality, and I spent most of the book rooting for the Goyl, who I think were supposed to be the bad guys. The emotional arc of the brother's relationship doesn't seem as if it would be interesting to kids; I'm not sure my son really noticed how much Will resented his brother's constant disappearances. The book never explained what happened to their father, another emotional loose end. And I was a bit surprised in the many sexual encounters in a book on the middle grade list; I thought this book was YA until I went to grab the link for this review. Huh.