31st December, 2020

Review: A Place Called Perfect by Helena Duggan (Usborne Books)

Happy New Year's Eve! Happy Hogmanay! Let‘s finish the year off with a review of a middle grade book, shall we? :) I read an interesting novel for younger readers over the holidays. How does a sort of Stepford Wives kind of book for kids sound to you? Here is the cover blurb:

They've got their eyes on you. Violet hates living in Perfect. Why does everyone have to wear special glasses to stop them going blind? What are the strange noises in the night and why is Mum acting so weird? Then Dad disappears and Violet is determined to uncover the truth with the help of the mysterious Boy. But returning normality to Perfect is a battle they never imagined...

I did enjoy this little book which I got for Christmas but I didn't love it. The world building is great and the general idea creative and something I haven’t read much before. The cover is absolutely stunning and the story has definite nods to Neil Gaiman and Roald Dahl. However,...

I can’t really put my finger on what irked me about this story. Maybe it was a bit too predictable, maybe it was the few inconsistencies that kept popping up - fact is that I had expected more. A Place Called Perfect had a very promising start and the premise caught my interest immediately. After a while, however, I was getting increasingly bored and began to struggle to continue about halfway into the story. This may have had to do with the above mentioned "hints" in the story that made both me and our son guess early on what was going to happen. At this halfway point we were both thinking that we'd like things to be moved forward a little faster in order to check if we were right in our assumptions (if you want to know: we were). I first thought this might be an age-problem as I am not exactly the target audience for middle grade fiction but our almost 7yo son unfortunately felt the same way. 

This is a pity really as the writing itself is great and Duggan has created some wonderfully quirky characters. I also liked that the book focuses so much on the importance of friendships and family.

I'm thinking that this book might have been better targeted at kids aged 5-6 than the usual middle grade audience or to new bookworms in general, because slightly more experienced readers will likely connect the dots rather quickly. Then again, it may be a bit too gloomy (and sometimes slightly creepy) for this younger age group. :-/ I have heard that many kids love the series, so maybe it just didn't work for us at this specific moment in time. We may revisit the series at a later time and give the second instalment another try. :)

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

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