The House of Secrets
by Chris Columbus and Ned Vizinni
One of the great things about book clubs is that you expand your range beyond what you might self select. My mini book club for this month was a pact with my grandson to read a fantasy he likes. I like mystery, history, memoir, biography, adventure, psychological or real life fiction best, or even sometimes science fiction. But unless fantasy is Harry Potter or something so excellent, it's not for me.
The first review from an eleven-year-old came from the grandson who wanted me to order the sequel which isn't out yet, an encouraging endorsement. I was the one who recommended it to him because the fascinating author's name and the jacket endorsements by J.K Rowling caught my eye.
The House of Secrets was almost five-hundred pages (bad news) of pretty large print (good news) but even though committed, I slogged. I fell asleep on it right away at night. I kept starting other books. It was not until forced to endure an airport wait plus two nights trying to be still while sleeping on another grandchild's top bunk who needs more sleep than I do that it came alive and I rather hated it to end.
I did love the beginning. A surgeon whose reputation has been ruined with a small mistake is in financial ruin and the family is being forced to sell their home and look for something low budget. What is low budget turns into an offer too good to be true. A furnished mansion perched on a cliff overlooking the ocean on prime real estate in the San Francisco Bay area is selling for an amazing bargain. Too good to be true. Why?? Stop reading right now if you want no story spoilers.
Because here the fantasy begins with a ghost daughter of a former owner of the Kristoff House called the Wind Witch who destroys everything and starts hurting people just for starters. Of course the parents disappear and the three children are left to fend for themselves. The plot is a cliff hanger or over the cliff hanger that just goes from bad to worse. The characters are so badly hurt or perhaps dead that they will never make it. But just in time they do. And this happens again and again, so often that is is exhausting. A compelling thread is that the children find themselves trapped in the spooky novels of the original owner of the house.
As a long ago adult graduate of such fantasy I felt that I had been there, done that. And that I could predict how it might end. But for a young person, this story, filled with pirates and sinking houses and evil places and battling forces of fantastical characters who betray the children and each other, lives in technicolor I'm sure.
First time author Chris Columbus directed the first two Harry Potter movies and wrote scripts for the Goonies and Gremlins. Young adult author Ned Vizinni who co-authored wrote The Other Normals and others that can be found at our ocpl.org.
We should keep our eye on this young team. The sequel to this fantasy, Battle of the Beasts, will be published March 25 of 2014 and the live YouTube review by a teen which promotes it so well and further is this. For parental advisement there is a detailed balanced evaluation on this site. For it is not reading for the faint of heart. And there is a nice review on Amazon. Oh yes, it's on Facebook of course: http://media.npr.org/assets/bakertaylor/covers/manually-added/house-of-secrets_custom-f4e0c7c217c1e4fabdf32346113e4574a296298d-s6-c30.jpg