Sunday, October 24, 2010
Book Review: The Boneshakers
I try to screen books before Maestro reads them. This is a difficult task because he is such a voracious reader. One day not long ago, I was trying to put Buttercup down for a nap and wanted something to look at to pass the time. Enter The Boneshaker by Kate Milford. This is not a book we would normally purchase ourselves perhaps, but was sent to us by Jeff's sixth grade teacher, and the author's uncle. Please do not mistake this book for the one written about zombies in WWII. This Boneshaker is actually using the term as a reference to the early bicycles, which went by that name. But I'm getting ahead of myself...
The book is set in a small town in the 1920's, a time when superstitions were prevalent and traveling shows were easier to find than they are in the present day. This is very much a "good versus evil" book. I enjoyed it and was struck by the depth of some of the passages, but I will not be allowing my own ten-year old to read it until he's closer to twelve. Some of the imagery is quite haunting. There are no graphic scenes, in terms of violence or sexuality. There was one description of the devil that was particularly vivid - and relevant to later parts of the story - that made me shudder a bit.
The main character is a girl of about thirteen named Natalie. She is talented with her hands and very interested in "automatons" - what we now call wind-up toys, and really all things mechanical. She has other ... gifts, of which she is not really aware though and has to try to use those gifts to fight the evil that comes to the town later on. With the help of her four friends, and a few choice adults, she works to understand what is happening within the town and the gift that is slowly revealing itself to her.
One of the additional things that I really liked about the book that also makes it a particularly good fit for the older "tween" set are the little unspoken lessons scattered about. I'll give one example, but I don't want to give them all away so you'll have to look at the book for yourself to see more. There is one of the four friends of whom Natalie is not so fond, finding her obnoxious and tedious to be with. She turns out to be one of the stronger friends in the book and someone who stands by her and supports Natalie at some of the toughest times. The lesson I took from that was that sometimes we are a little too quick to write off those that we dislike for (mostly) superficial reasons. For me, this lesson is particularly dear because some of my closest and dearest friends now are people I didn't particularly care much for upon our first meeting. Boy am I glad God overtook me in my stupidity and personal arrogance!
The book does move quickly. On one hand, it has to in order to get in all the detail that it does; on the flip side, the fast pace means that fleshing out many of the background characters cannot happen. For those characters, I would have liked to have seen a little more, but given the scope of the book, and that it is Ms. Milford's first published effort, the details included made up for the lack of detail elsewhere.
In the end, I'm glad to have spent the time with The Boneshaker. I found my thoughts wandering to the story line while working around the house, and in the end, spent most of last Friday absorbed in finding out what was to happen to them all. In my house, that is a sign of a good book!
Incidentally, here is a link to the books official site. Small though the site is, it does give a fuller review of the book (I didn't want to risk giving away any secrets!) Clock Work Foundry
And a link to order the book (including another reader's excellently written review and a fuller synopsis): Powells Booksellers