I was amused, impressed, and entertained by this odd, and oddly endearing, book. In some respects it's similar to the work I admire from Roald Dahl and David Walliams, but it also carves out some fresh territory of its very own.
The setup is classic. August, a kind, observant, good natured boy in unusual circumstances has grown up without ever having left his rundown family mansion. According to the fictional rule of the "inciting incident" he is called upon to leave the premises and have an adventure. Along the way this innocent abroad accidentally reanimates a young girl and so ends up with a girl zombie sidekick. None of this barebones summary gives you a sense of how delightful the book is, but it at least gives you an idea of the plot, such as it is.
The real fun here is in the deadpan unflappable hero, the understated oddness of pretty much everything that happens, the charm and quirkiness of virtually every character, and the twisty unexpectedness of many of the twists and turns of the tale. There's a hidden treasure macguffin that keeps the plot wheels spinning, but that's all beside the point. There's whimsy of course, but a bracing undercurrent of sterner stuff that keeps the book from being cutesy
This is a story about family and the ties that bind. It's about adventure and making your way. It is very much about friendship and, of all things, making the honorable choice. With all the wordplay and slightly antic action, the book is mostly about goodness and kindness.
On that last point, there is a line in the book I want to get right because it encapsulates the unusual and engaging feel of this book overall. MILD SPOILER. At one point our hero is humiliated, in front of a large crowd, at a big party, by his cousin. He is hurt and embarrassed. That's not an unusual scene for a middle grade book like this, especially one involving a timid and shy kid. The author describes August's hurt and dismay. But then there is an odd narrative aside; something I don't recall ever seeing in a book like this. Here it is - "If you are saddened by the lack of compassion in such a large gathering of people, please take heart. There were, in fact, many expressions of pity and concern in the crowd, but August simply did not see them." I like authors who are edgy and sharp and sometimes push middle grade readers around. But I don't think I've read another one who is so good about picking that reader up and dusting him off after knocking him down. I just liked that.
Anyway, this is the first book in a proposed series. It ends with our two buddies looking at the next stage of their adventure, (searching for the macguffin). I will eagerly await that next volume, because I was just so taken by this first book. This was an excellent find.
(Please note that I received a free ecopy of this book without a review requirement, or any influence regarding review content should I choose to post a review. Apart from that I have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book.)