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Customer Review

42 of 51 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars not badly written or conceived but greatly disappointing in execution, February 9, 2010
This review is from: The Sixty-Eight Rooms (The Sixty-Eight Rooms Adventures) (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Marianne Malone's The Sixty-Eight Rooms is a YA fantasy novel with a great premise. The problem is she seems to have forgotten to put the fantasy in.

The book imagines two sixth-graders, Ruthie and Jack, who discover a magical key on a field trip to the Thorne Rooms in the Art Institute of Chicago, a famous collection of 68 miniature rooms set in various time periods. The key shrinks Ruthie and Jack down to a size where they can enter the rooms and explore. Even better, it turns out that beyond the room is the entire world of the room's setting: France just a few years before the French Revolution, Mass. during the Salem Witch Trials, etc. The book moves back and forth between Ruthie and Jack's adventures in these worlds, their attempts to sneak into the Art Institute in order to enter the rooms, and their quest in the real world to find out the mysteries behind the Thorne Rooms--who created them and how, where the key came from, how some objects from the Thorne Rooms appear to have entered the real world, and so on. Meanwhile, Jack's mother has some real-world issues of her own to deal with as she's having a hard time selling her artwork and the two of them (Jack and his mom) are in danger of being evicted.

As mentioned, the premise is simply wonderful, combining time travel and Borrowers-type "small-person" adventuring. The problem is, we see almost no adventuring in the worlds outside the Thorne Rooms. We only pop into two of the 68 and for a matter of only a few pages--in total the Thorne Room adventures add up to only about 10 percent of the book. There is a lot of time spent getting the key and getting into the Museum, figuring out the logistics of shrinking and moving among the rooms, tracking down the room's mysteries--all of which have their place but offer far less of a sense of wonder and adventure than adventures in a strange time and place do.
While the book moves along smoothly enough, and the characters are well-drawn and likable, in the end the book severely disappoints by setting up the promise of exciting adventures but not following through.

Malone leaves room for more at the end, so it's possible this was just a set-up novel to further adventures. If so, she would have been better served I think whetting our appetites a bit more fully with the possibilities. Not recommended as a stand-alone. I'll give her the benefit of the doubt and hope she returns to the Thorne Rooms with another book more fully set there.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 13, 2011 2:41:41 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 13, 2011 2:45:01 PM PST
Jen says:
Marianne will be publishing further books, I do not yet know what they are about yet.
from personal source

Posted on Jul 11, 2012 10:38:34 AM PDT
Dawn S. says:
I found this review insightful, and if the author is planning to turn this into a series, I think this reviews specific suggestions may improve future episodes. This review did not drive me away from the book, but rather gave me a better idea of what to expect as we travel through it. That said, two stars is rather low a rating for "very well written but could have been more impactful" type of criticism. I'm planning to read this aloud to my rising third grader, and use each of the rooms as an opportunity to delve into some non-fiction on varying periods and places.

Posted on Nov 5, 2014 3:21:09 PM PST
lila p says:

Posted on Dec 10, 2015 7:32:16 PM PST
I read this review before I read the book, keeping it in mind as I read. I guess I don't agree this reviewer. I like the fact that the book isn't pure fantasy, that much of it is striving to achieve the experiences within the Thorne rooms. What happens in the "real world" is valid to the plot. The way lives are changed by the two kids' adventures is realistic within the context of the book. I found the ending satisfying and was glad to know this book is the first in a series.

The fact that the kids only explore a couple rooms is perfectly fine with me. Malone picked rooms from time periods where exciting things happen and time periods that YA readers might have some knowledge of. That was a wise choice. Hopping from room to room to room might have lessened the impact of the rooms we do get to explore.

I agree that Malone doesn't take shortcuts with description (something like "he picked her up between his thumb and forefinger" rather than simply "he picked her up") but I felt confident the author had thought through all the details. I find the book well-crafted.

I, of course, am a grownup. I'm not sure if YA readers will be as satisfied with the careful plotting. But I appreciated the logical plot, the likable and well-drawn characters, and satisfying conclusions to the problems each faces.
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