Middle school students have reading interests that run the gamut from Diary of a Wimpy Kid to Twilight. Sometimes as a parent it is hard to know what is age appropriate for your child. Through this blog, I will try to help parents make informed decisions about what is available in our library. I am hoping that this blog will be a resource for our parents, and that we can all work together to make our students life-long readers!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

House of Secrets

House of Secrets
by Chris Columbus &
Ned Vizzini
From the publisher:
"The Walker kids had it all: loving parents, a big house in San Francisco, all the latest video games . . . but everything changed when their father lost his job as a result of an inexplicable transgression. Now the family is moving into Kristoff House, a mysterious place built nearly a century earlier by Denver Kristoff, a troubled writer with a penchant for the occult.

Suddenly the siblings find themselves launched on an epic journey into a mash-up world born of Kristoff’s dangerous imagination, to retrieve a dark book of untold power, uncover the Walker family’s secret history and save their parents . . . and maybe even the world."

I did not like this one, but I kept soldiering on and finished. The concept seems amazing, and I think it could have been, but there were so many ridiculous situations it lost my interest. Actually, I don't think it ever had my interest. I thought a book written by the director of the first 2 Harry Potter movies and blurbed by J.K. Rowling must be good. However, now that I look back on what J.K. Rowling said, I realize that it is like when someone who hasn't been a very good employee asks for a letter of recommendation. You try to make them sound good without really committing yourself.
"A breakneck, jam-packed roller coaster of an adventure about the secret power of books, House of Secrets comes complete with three resourceful sibling heroes, a seriously creepy villainess, and barrel loads of fantasy and fear." 
All of those things are technically true, but it left out anything about loving the book or thinking it was amazing. Well played, J.K.Rowling.

A few positives of the book are that the siblings learn to really love and look out for each other. The character of Will was intriguing because of where he came from. The idea of being inside books is always a fun theme. 

It is possible that middle school boys might get a little enjoyment out of this because it is horribly gory. However, they will never be able to keep all the plot points together. I have no desire to read the sequel, especially when the publisher says, " ...they'll be tested in ways that cut deeper than before..." . How do you "cut deeper" than vivisection (which was a main plot point in this first book)? I'm just glad I am done with it.

Areas of concern:
The violence and gore are way overdone for a middle grade book. Vivisection, eyeballs pulled out in front of children, friends killed while children watched, parents missing and presumed dead.... I could go on and on. 
There are a handful of cuss words.
Skeletons keep coming alive and when they do they are naked and standing in front of the children, who proceed to have conversations with them first and then get them clothes.

Suggested Ages:
Publisher's Weekly - Ages 9+  
School Library Journal - Grades 4-8
*Mrs. Duke disagrees with these suggested ages because of the extreme violence.  Possibly 7th or 8th grade and higher.

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