By David Baldacci
Published 2014 by Scholastic
No one has ever left Wormwood - at least, no one has ever left and survived. But Vega Jane sees something disturbing one night and soon, she's discovering that there may be more to Wormwood than anyone knows. In fact, there may be a way out. Can Vega Jane solve the mystery once and for all?
So, Baldacci is a big deal in the adult publishing world - I'm not really a suspense reader, so I've never read him. But I'm always interested when adult authors make the leap into publishing for kids and teens, particularly when they diverge from their typical genre, as Baldacci does here. Is it really a good book? Or did the name attached sell itself?
In this case, I think it's the latter. I had several problems with this book and most of them I think come from Baldacci's lack of understanding about writing for kids and fantasy in general. This book is riddled with nonsense words - words that are either made up or familiar words that are given new meanings in the context of the story. This wouldn't necessarily bother me - in fact, much good fantasy includes its own language. In this case, though, the nonsense words are simply standing in for regular words, thus rendering them completely unnecessary. Does it really make sense to say a sliver when you mean a minute? Session when you mean a year? It just comes off as silly. It reads as if Baldacci thought, "well, I'm writing a fantasy, I better make up some words!" Nonsense I tell you.
Additionally, this book is bloated. It's around 500 pages and it feels every bit of that. Once again, it feels like Baldacci thought to himself, "well, Harry Potter was long and successful, so I better write lots of pages." Once again, I'm perfectly okay with a long book IF THE STORY CALLS FOR IT. Unfortunately, many these 500 pages felt like added weight to drag the story out more and give the book more heft.
Vega, too, felt torn from a manual on creating a successful fantasy novel - orphan (well, close enough), outsider (seriously, where are all the females in this world? How are babies being born??), gifted, blah, blah, blah. I just didn't care. I didn't care about her or any of the other characters. The plot never really grabbed me either - it may have been interesting, but it gets lost in all that clunky and absurd language that Baldacci is using. Finally, the book has an open ending. It seems there may be sequels in the works, which just adds to my disappointment. I won't be be back for future installments.
Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.