Goth Girl Review

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One love that David and I share (David may take ownership over it a bit more than I) is Neil Gaiman’s books. His stories have heart and magic in the best possible ways and I’m always excited to read (or watch) his next story. Gaiman’s partnered with Chris Riddell a few times on his children’s stories, where Riddell provides a number of illustrations to accompany the writing. I had no idea Riddell wrote too, until I came across a recommendation of his children’s series Goth Girl by a British booktuber.

Upon hearing the name I knew I had to read it, fancying myself a bit of a goth at times. Not really, but I have an affinity for wearing black, a bit like Neil Gaiman. Hmm, coincidence? I didn’t get around to reading even just the first book in the series for a couple years as I found it incredibly difficult to get a hold of in the states. But when I got my hands on a copy I was surprised to find that Ada, our child protagonist, is not a goth at all. Goth is simply her surname, though a number of gothic things do seem to occur at her father’s estate.

It is refreshing that Riddell treats his (child) readers respectfully, not condescending but rather rewarding the intelligence and preciousness found in young readers. The book is filled to the brim with silly asides, hilarious puns, and more literary references than you could shake an umbrella at. In addition, his prose builds, with deliciously unnecessary adjectives, a dark playground of a world. Riddell’s playful, absurd illustrations compliment these playful, absurd descriptions of Ada Goth’s life, from the tiny illustrations at the beginning of the chapter to the unexpectedly intricate two page spreads. His spidery lines string together adorable ghostly mice and ghastly indoor gamekeepers into something quite, well, gothic.

Underneath all the references and gothic elements, the reader is left with a message that is wholly modern and dare I say slightly political. When exotic creatures start showing up in captivity for a lordly hunt to take place on the estate, you know one girl and some of her friends will find that its up to them to save them from certain death. For a children’s book that hits all the marks for adults just as well as kids, feast your eyes on this literary and artistic story (if you can find it).

P.S. Check out the tiny book in the back after you finish. The mouse-sized poetry is the cherry on atop this adorable cake.

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A Monster Calls Review

Stories are wild creatures,” the monster said. “When you let them loose, who knows what havoc they might wreak?

Patrick Ness, A Monster Calls

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This book, as so many do, tugs at the heartstrings. But what makes A Monster Calls unique is in the way and capacity in which this is done. I wouldn’t call this book eloquent in the way that Ness strings words together to make them beautiful, but in its dealing with rough and tough topics so expertly. The mastery here is in the simplicity. He writes as if speaking to a child and it’s what makes the story all the more haunting and brilliant.

Conor, our protagonist, has been suffering from dreadful nightmares. It’s something so horrible he can’t bare to speak about it. As the book progresses, it becomes quite evident to the reader just what this monster he’s having nightmares about might be. Another monster comes to visit him because he’s having such a rough time of it. Conor’s mother is battling cancer, his loathsome grandmother comes to help out, the bullies at school love to pick on him, and his estranged father makes everything all the more complicated.

What makes the appearance of these monsters so scary is their realness. The yew tree monster continuously proves himself to be real. And you don’t find out just how real the monster Conor is terrified of is until the end. The yew tree monster shows its significance throughout this short novel in many ways. Ultimately, he’s there to bring justice, though his form of justice is quite unorthodox.

This book feels a lot like Wonder, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. And it’s probably just as great, so I don’t know why it’s not as widely known. Even so, A Monster Calls is being turned into a film that looks perfectly deep, dark, and mysterious. I’m excited to watch the yew tree monster scenes and see the magnitude of the character brought to life on screen.