I can be pretty eclectic in my reading taste, and so I know it might seem a bit random what books I review, but at least this way there’s always a chance that the next one is for you! The Books I Read for today’s post, The Icarus Project by Laura Quimby* and Beastkeeper by Cat Hellisen* are both middle grade novels with a bit of a supernatural tilt to them and tough girls as their narrators.
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Honestly, I had been saying I was going to read The Icarus Project by Laura Quimby so many times I swore to myself that I would just donate it if I didn’t make my Winter Reading Goal of finishing it. Luckily it is one of the two books on my list that I actually finished, so even though it took 3 years, I finally read it.
The Icarus Project is a little bit fantasy, a little bit adventure, a little bit silly, and a little bit fun. The main character Maya is the daughter of two scientists, and all she wants is to make an important discovery herself. When she gets to travel with her father to the Arctic, she finally has her chance. Her dad is a mammoth scientist, and that’s what he’s going looking for, but it turns out there’s something very unexpected hidden beneath the ice instead.
I was really excited about the mix of science and adventure in The Icarus Project, but despite a promising start, things got a little too silly for me. Maya is a great main character, but there’s a lot of emphasis placed on her having this super unique white hair despite that storyline not actually going anywhere. Then, once they actually discover what’s beneath the ice, the story takes off in a direction that just gets more and more over the top without much explanation behind it. I’m obviously older than the intended audience, so The Icarus Project could be a lot of fun for the right reader, but having finally read Quimby’s novel, I probably could have skipped it after all.
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Beastkeeper by Cat Hellisen caught my attention with the fun twist on a well-known idea–it is Beauty and the Beast, but the beast is a girl. After Sarah’s mother leaves, her father begins to change into something wild, and takes her to live with grandparents she didn’t even know existed. Sarah lives in a castle in a forest, trying to unravel the secrets of her family, and as she soon realizes–herself. Unless she can break the curse, someday she too will become a beast.
Hellisen’s prose is lovely, the book starts off feeling like magical realism, but soon delves into fantasy. That is when it starts to get strange. Unfortunately, although the writing is lovely, the characters are quite flat, especially the secondary characters but even Sarah herself. As a result, I ended up feeling pretty indifferent to how things turned out for her, which isn’t ideal for getting engaged in a book. The pacing could also be better, I feel like for such a short book the ‘real’ story takes far too long to begin and the plot was sometimes difficult to follow.
I think part of the issue might be that by keeping itself at a middle grade level, Hellisen isn’t able to really delve into the issues and feelings that the novel presents. Overall, Beastkeeper had some promising elements in the unusual twists to the story as well as great writing, so I’d be willing to try other books by Hellisen, especially for a YA or Adult audience.
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As I always ask, have you read anything good lately?