From School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-A paradigm of perfection-with straight As, gleaming blond curls, and an unshakable sense of purpose-12-year-old Victoria expects everything and everyone to be just so. Friends are particularly messy, so she has opted to have only one. Lawrence is a disheveled, music-loving dreamer whom she views as a "personal project" in need of fixing. When Lawrence goes missing, Victoria investigates and soon unearths dreadful secrets lurking beneath the surface of her picture-perfect community. The adults are behaving oddly, numerous children have disappeared, and nasty creepy-crawlies are popping up everywhere. Victoria's sleuthing leads her to the local orphanage and into the flawlessly manicured grasps of Mrs. Cavendish, the malevolent, magic-using headmistress who snatches less-than-perfect children from their homes and reforms them through a nightmare-inducing regime of physical and psychological punishments. Once Victoria uncovers the awful truth, she must face her own greatest fears-and also learn to reach out to others-to save the day. Beginning with the uneasy realization that things are not quite right, gradually incorporating disquieting discoveries, and escalating into full-out horror (the children are fed chopped-up body-part casseroles), the suspense and sense of dread build to the satisfying (and also unsettling) conclusion. Shadow-filled black-and-white illustrations and the occasional bug scampering across the text intensify the eeriness. Insidiously creepy, searingly sinister, and spine-tinglingly fun, this book also presents a powerful message about friendship and the value of individuality.-Joy Fleishhacker, School Library Journalα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
The town of Belleville likes things to be perfect, and no one is more in agreement than 12-year-old Victoria: perfect student, perfect daughter. She takes on a fellow classmate—the imperfect Lawrence—as a project, but he’s also her only friend, so when he disappears, the determined Victoria sets out to find him. She knows where to look, too: the home for orphan boys and girls run by the seemingly sweet but truly diabolical Mrs. Cavendish. First-time author Legrand sets everything up beautifully, but once Victoria gets scooped up by Mrs. Cavendish, the story descends into something more ugly than scary, especially when Victoria is thrown into the “hanger” to be assaulted with disgusting bugs and sad visions. Nor do the reasons for Mrs. Cavendish’s actions ever make much sense. Even sadists usually have a story they tell to justify themselves. Still, this has many of the elements that endeared readers to books like Roald Dahl’s Matilda (1988) and Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events titles. It’s also a handsome piece of bookmaking, with the art adding much to the package. Grades 4-7. --Ilene Cooper