Top positive review
Great for Boys and Girls Who Like Smart Mysteries
on November 29, 2013
I really should rate this book a five, but it is not as good as the Homecoming series, but then again, Homecoming is one of my all time favorite books and in a different age group genre than this one. Also, I read Homecoming as a pre-teen and it gave me so many emotional ups and downs that still resonant with me today which is me trying to say that I am probably so biased on Homecoming that I am not truly able to star Cynthia Voigt properly on anything else. She will always be worth reading... ALWAYS. Do not ever doubt that picking up a Cynthia Voigt book is one of the best reading choices you can make.
Now with that disclaimer out of the way, let me say I adored this book and Max. Cynthia Voigt wins high praise for me because she is one of the best authors at making you love her main character, narrator usually. Right off the bat, they're flawed and ridiculously high-minded and during the span of the story, she makes them develop into layered, smart-thinking but changed for the better as they become more open-minded and realize the world doesn't work within the confines of their idealistic worldviews. It's such a gift to see this sort of character development, especially in middle-school aged characters.
Maximilian Starling is darling, and only twelve, but he has skills. The keen eye of observation and hard true-boiled logic of a detective, which is helpful considering his parents have disappeared and left him behind with only a cryptic note for him to find. He has no idea what to think. Have they been kidnapped or forced away against their will or are they just up to some odd prank because granted his parents are very strange.
So Max gets a job because he's going to need an income to live while looking for his parents. And finds out he's quite good at following people, tracking dogs and overall listening when others do not -- a solutioneer is what he calls himself. The tasks start easily enough, but he quickly finds himself in need of help and acquires it in the forms of many people, and usually of the female sort.
He might not be shy but Max has been sheltered more than he thought despite his parents' actor-ly livelihood. This turns out to be disadvantage until he meets some guides who help him learn and navigate all the sides of his city. Again through his interaction with his own peers, an elderly lady and clients, Max's transformation as a sort of stuck in his ideals thinker grows into a I want to see the world in all its glory even if it means walking the seedier sides of town.
This book definitely has a cozy, old school charm like it says in the introduction. Such a beautiful cover and the details of the illustrations (we only get one full illustration but it reminds me of the Series of Unfortunate Events b&w sketches) and the accents, the background on black pages have Baroque-styled designs you would find in old classic books and there will be maps. I received it wrapped in brown paper and tied up with twine so it looked like a parcel from the early days it is set in. Such care and detail and catchy cover makes this book an overall package that would work as a lovely gift for any reader on your list.
The mystery is good too. It isn't an easy thing to figure out, but it is heavily foreshadowed as a mystery for this age group should be. If I had to make a comparison, I am reminded heavily of Nancy Springer's Enola Holmes series. Both these series are wonderful and brilliant for the age group they are aimed, without anything... plot, setting, tone and issues of story kept age appropriate but smart, witty and historically-accurate for learning beyond the act of comprehension. They are a vocabulary lesson and history lesson and a social lesson in how to mature into an independent thinker.
But I have now gone from reviewing just Mister Max: The Book of Lost Things to reviewing it and the Enola Holmes series... so back to topic. If you need a book for a boy or girl reader who wants to be pushed into more critical thinking and comprehension, this book is amazing for that. If you need a book to entertain you... this book works great for that too.
So what am I saying... This book can be enjoyed by everyone. Really... Truly... that is the gift of Cynthia Voigt. She writes stories that no one can really put boundaries upon because they're so good, everyone wants to read them.