Wednesday, February 22, 2017
The Book Jumper by Mechthild Glaser
While the prospect of jumping into a world built around literature isn't the newest concept I've ever heard (Pagemaster, anyone?) it's always at least worth checking out. Written originally in German, this is Ms. Glaser's first book to be translated into English and shared with us over in the US. How does this literary adventure turn out? Let's dive right in.
Amy Lennox travels to Scotland to visit her grandmother on the mysterious island of Stormsay. It is here that Amy discovers that members of her family have a rare gift: the ability to jump into books and venture into the world of literature. Here they can witness the story unfold around them and interact with the characters and work with them to keep the story intact. But while the power is amazing, she soon discovers that it is not all fun and games. Amy must contend with an old family feud, secrets, and a mysterious thief who is threatening to destroy the book world forever.
First off, the premise of this story is a very good one. Getting to see all into the worlds of these famous stories (well, stories that are public domain, anyway) is actually very interesting. Each book character has great personality and the atmosphere of the Margin (a Diagon Ally-esque hub where characters can come and take a break from their stories and mingle) is all very well described and makes for a great concept. It builds a sense of community among the book characters, fleshing them out into three dimensional characters beyond their established plots. We get to see well-known characters like Shere Khan the tiger, the witches from Macbeth, and the White Rabbit. We also meet lesser known characters such as The Little Prince and Werther from The Sorrows of Young Werther by Goethe, who becomes a very likable and helpful character.
Outside of the book world also manages to be interesting. The best thing about this book is the mystery and the concept behind the book thief. The mystery is handled very well, with several false leads, different suspects, and possible motives. It's just as a mystery should be. Also, there's the prospect of someone on the island stealing ideas from the book world, essential ideas, and using them to create a new story. That's a really clever idea and also a subtle warning about plagiarism and how it does, indeed, hurt literature. Very smooth, Ms. Glaser. Very smooth indeed.
Now does this book have a downside? Yes. That would be the main character. Now Amy, by far, isn't the worst main character I've seen in a book. She's not an unintentionally horrible person or overly perfect or anything. Ultimately Amy's problem is that she is so unbelievably bland! She has little in the way of genuine personality and, once again, everyone with the exception of the obligatory mean girl instantly loves her. While there are times when I appreciate the author not giving in to typical tropes of brooding and overreacting to every little thing like some characters do, it can sometimes come off like nothing really affects this girl at all. She takes everything with an almost unbelievable ease that nobody would really have. On the other hand, I do like that she and her love interest take time to fall in love. Almost a whole summer before they realize their feelings. She also doesn't find him instantly drop dead gorgeous but discovers his beauty as she gets to know him. This is much better than I've seen recently and I do appreciate it. It just kind of sucks that the story is being told from the perspective of such a meh character. Someone with a bit more depth and this would have been much better, for me at least.
Summing up this book in one word, it would be: clever. The concept, while not new, is clever. The story is clever. The plot is clever. It just does a great job of setting and build up that, if you can ignore the flaws of the main character, then I'd say this book is definitely worth your money at your local bookstore.
Have you read the book? What did you think? Comment below and share your thoughts.
Next Time: The Clankers and the Darwinists march to Istanbul...or is it Constantinople?