I received this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
This book reminded me a lot of those coming of age movies from the 80’s and early 90’s, and that’s a good thing. What set those movies apart and made them so enjoyable was how realistic they were in terms of how it feels to be a kid/teenager, and while reading The Page Turners, I got the same feeling.
In this story, bullies are portrayed as monstrously as children view them to be, parents divorcing is the end of the world, and absolutely no adult truly understands what any of the teens are thinking and feeling. Although we learn as we get older that none of those things are cut and dry, bullies are very human, sometimes marriages fail, and you would be surprised how well your parents actually understand you sometimes. When you’re a kid, everything is heightened, and the smallest things have a lasting effect on who you become.
I am not saying that bullies, divorce, and feeling misunderstood are small things to deal with, I am saying that at an age when getting a pimple, having a bad hair day, or farting in class, feels like the end of the world, dealing with serious issues is all the more damaging, and this book understands that fact.
The story revolves around three 14-year-old boys, Danny, Nate, and Spenser. They are the founding and only members of a school reading club called The Page Turners. These boys are characters that we have all run into before, and I am sure more than a few of us can identify with them. They are the nerds who everyone either picks on or ignores, the readers who laugh at strange jokes, and the oddballs. To top everything off, they live in a small town that worships jocks and looks upon everyone else as being inferior.
Let me tell you a little about each boy:
Nate is the leader of the group who finds the book that starts the whole mess. He is an angry kid. His dad left when he was younger, his mother his dead, and he is left with an alcoholic step-father who never wanted or should have had custody of a child. He gets the majority of the bullying in his small group of friends because he is the only one who fights against his status of being a “worthless nerd”. The other two seem to have an attitude of acceptance that high school is just going to suck for them, but Nate wants more. He talks to the girlfriend of the school’s biggest bully, and fights back when the same bully picks on him. Even though It just makes things worse, I actually admired Nate’s spunk. He wasn’t a particularly nice kid, but for some reason, I still liked him. I understood that his anger came from a place of hopelessness, and say what you will about him, but he was brave. I get the feeling that he could become a great hero or villain by the end of this series. He could go either way.
Spenser is the lovable butterball in the group. His personality isn’t as strong as Nate or Danny’s so he spends most of his time refereeing fights between the two. But even though Spenser wasn’t a big personality, he was the most likable character. He was simply a nice kid who didn’t have a mean bone in his body. He dealt with self-esteem issues because of his weight and he is confronted with the news that his family isn’t as happy as he always believed it was, but through it all, he remains a nice person. I respected his characters and felt like he was more mature than some of the adults in the book. I don’t have to wonder about whether or not Spenser will become a hero or villain some day because he is already a hero.
If I had to choose a favorite member of The Page Turners, it would be Danny. I liked all three boys, and they alternated as my favorites while I was reading, but in the end, Danny was my guy. I am not even sure why I liked Danny so much. He wasn’t the deepest of characters. His family life was healthy. He had two great parents that loved him, his sister, and each other very much. Even his relationship with his sister was good. But maybe that’s why I liked him. I was blessed enough to have a happy childhood with a loving family so Danny represented me. He is also the one who experiences the greatest loss during the course of the book. He falls in love for the first time, and I can’t tell you much without spoiling, but his first love doesn’t run smoothly. He was a good mixture between Nate and Spenser, and he rounded out the group very well. He had a strong personality, but he was also very sweet. And of course he was heroic as well.
There are only two other important characters in the book, Diana, Danny’s little sister and Valande, the villain.
While Diana could be considered a main character because several chapters are featured from her point of view, she wasn’t as much of a focus as the boys. However, I liked her inclusion in the story. She was the healthiest out of all four children. She was strong-willed without being stubborn, and she handled some very difficult situations with the grace and maturity of a much older girl. I hope more of a spotlight is shined on her in the next books. I was also impressed with how well the author wrote in the voice of a young woman. I know that is just part of the job when you choose to write novels, you have to be able to see from all points of view, but I still appreciate it when authors do a good job of writing the opposite gender.
Valande is my only true complaint about this book. He wasn’t a well or poorly written villain, he was just bland. There were several scary things that happened because of him, but he himself, wasn’t very frightening. I liked the fact that he was an old school vampire, there was nothing glittery about this guy, but he was still a cliché so I can’t put him on my list of favorites. There just isn’t a whole lot to say about him other than he fell flat. He was, however, a great way to keep the story moving and give the kids something to fight against. There are a couple of scenes that made me wonder what age group to recommend this book for. It never became distasteful or overly graphic, but I’ve read some graphic books that didn’t make me as nervous while I read them. The suspense was very well written, and there were just enough details to get me jittery.
I was surprised by how easy and enjoyable this book was to read. When I first started, I was concerned that the language would be too flowery and the shift between points of view would become annoying, but neither happened. There was a great mixture between flowery descriptions and straight to the point writing, and I never once was bothered by the different points of view.
This is a great book to give to children between the ages of 12 and 14, but I can honestly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a well told coming of age story. I am already hooked and will be reading the next installment as soon as it comes out.
Because of very mild language and some violence, I would recommend this book for ages 12 and up. Absolutely no sexual content.