Far Far Away by Tom McNeal is assigned reading for a seminar I'm attending in January. I can already tell that I'm going to have a hard time discussing it critically . . . because I loved it so much!
Grimm may have died in 1863, but his spirit is doomed to wander until he
figures out what it is he has left undone. After some years of roaming,
he finds a boy in a small town who is one of the few in the world who
can hear the voices of ghosts. Jacob knows that there is also in
Jeremy's small town a Finder of Occasions, who will do Jeremy harm if
left unchecked. If Jacob can protect Jeremy and encourage him to excel
in school and go away to college, Jacob reasons, he can perhaps move on
himself, to whatever comes next. Of course, it won't be that easy. . . .
over-simplifying the plot with that summary, and certainly not doing it
justice. This book has magic, humor, suspense, and romance. The
characters are excellent, the writing is brilliant, and I didn't figure
out who the Finder of Occasions was until fairly late in the story,
though perhaps a savvier reader would have caught on sooner, since there
are some nice fairy-tale related clues dropped with gentle precision at
key points. There are some dark parts to the story, as well -- I
wouldn't recommend it to kids, necessarily, but readers from middle
school up who love magical realism and fairy-tale references should
definitely read this book!
This is one of my rare five-star reads, and will definitely be among my favorites for the year.
(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)