'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Wednesday 21 January 2015

Review: Far Far Away

Tom McNeal is one of my favourite authors (his adult novel To Be Sung Underwater is one of the best books I've ever read), so I was thrilled to discover his recent book for young adults. And it didn't disappoint.

Jeremy Johnson Johnson lives in the small town of Never Better with his dad. His mother left several years ago, at which time his father pretty much took to his bed, where he's remained ever since. Jeremy is also the owner of the Two-Book Bookstore, which stocks only the two volumes of his grandfather's autobiography and which he inherited when his grandfather died. Book sales are, understandably, slow and Jeremy and his dad are mere months away from financial ruin.

Most of the kids in town avoid Jeremy, or openly mock him, but there is one exception. Ginger Boultinghouse has long coppery hair, amber eyes and a decided air of mystery. She's also smart and a daredevil — a dangerous combination, especially when she starts involving Jeremy in her adventures.

The appearance of Ginger in Jeremy's world is of great concern for the narrator of this story: the ghost of Jacob Grimm (of the Brothers Grimm). Jacob is condemned to remain Earth-bound until he can fulfil an 'unknown yet unmet desire' and finally pass on properly to join his brother, Wilhelm. While Jacob is invisible to all, he can be heard by a very select few, and so has become Jeremy's closest friend and confidant.

And then there's Sten Blix, the town baker. Jovial, kind and generous, Sten is also the maker of the famed Prince Cakes. Made only on rare occasions, their appearance on Sten's shelves is always heralded by green smoke billowing from the bakery chimney the night before.

But when a prank played by Ginger and Jeremy on Mr Blix goes awry, the town of Never Better is turned on its head and the fairytales of the Brothers Grimm might offer Jeremy's only chance of survival.

This is an intricately plotted story of immense imagination and originality. Tom McLean is a master wordsmith; his writing effortlessly sucks you in and immerses you in his fictional worlds.  I was spellbound from the first page to the last and I know this is a book I will read again.

Simply brilliant.

Title: Far Far Away
Author: Tom McNeal
Publisher: Definitions, $16.99 RRP
Publication Date: November 2014
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781909531277
For ages: 14+
Type: Young Adult