I just finished a book for Middle Graders that had been on my to do list for a while. And I am of two minds about this graphic romp through gore and terror. Firstly, while this book can be found in the Junior Fiction section of the library and Bookstore, I highly recommend any parent read this one first before offering it to their child despite the marketing of Grades 3-7. 8-11 might be too young for this book.
House of Secrets, by
Balzer + Bray, April 2013; Grade 3-7, 496 pgs (hardback)
Ok, where to start. First, Man was that a violent, graphically so, book! And I am somewhat horrified that it is marketed to middle graders. However, the ending in a way did make up for it, but at the same time What a Cop Out!
I have read that this is a set up for a direct to movie series which is why one of the producers of the Harry Potter Movies is listed as an Author. So I am a little dubious as to weather this is really a book to be read, or just an elongated script…. But either way, I think they will be hard pressed to make this anything less than PG-13.
This book should only be given to mature older middle graders, and I am not sure teens will find much to like. There is little character development and what is there is rather two dimensional. I have said that junior fiction characters need to be rather two dimensional so I am not docking the book for its lack of character development. What upset me had more to do with the rather haphazard way the story went from one improbable impossible situation to the next with the children accumulating injuries that a hardened seal (military not the animal) would find difficult to carry on with. And the deaths (multiple in this book) of characters in a middle grade book need to have meaning and purpose, not done simple to terrify the reader. This is a Junior Fiction Book, not some Horror novel for adults.
Now I can’t say the next part without spoiling the ending so STOP READING IF YOU DONT WANT TO KNOW HOW IT ENDS>>>>>>
OK, a major pet peeve, even hate, of mine is any author who after putting the reader (and characters) through such extreme torture and hardship would simply go “oh oops poof, everything is back to the beginning”. I mean Bob Newheart got away with it all being a dream, but it is the ultimate cop out. Paint (or write) yourself into a corner where the only possible solution is….a magical equivalent of a do over. Nothing infuriates me more. So between the violence and the ending this is only an average book.
I think boys especially will enjoy this as a rocking crazy adventure that never stops for a second. Parents please note this book talks about vivisection, torture of children, lots and lots of killing, and some very disturbing scenes including one where the oldest girl has to perform surgery on another person. And a gun that never needs to be reloaded… I think if I were a younger child this book might give me nightmares, so hand this book with care. But if your son or daughter is into action with little plot, then this book might be right up their alley.