Monday, March 24, 2008

The 13th Reality by James Dashner

THE 13TH REALITY is the first volume of THE JOURNEY OF CURIOUS LETTERS by James Dashner. I found it a complete delight.

Tick (short for Atticus) is your ultimate unlikely hero. He has a birthmark on his neck that he hates so much that he wears a scarf year-round. The school bullies call it the "barf scarf" and when we meet him, he is in the midst of being bullied. That very day, he receives the first in a series of curious letters, each with have a clue (or two). What are they clues for? Well, if he solves the riddles in time, they will "reveal on a certain day, at a certain time, at a certain place, something extraordinary will happen."

This novel is about a kid finding courage and learning that he is stronger than he thinks.

One problem that authors of children's novels have is how to get rid of the parents. In order for a child to have dangerous adventures, the author must somehow get rid of the parent or render them impotent. So we therefore have children at boarding schools, dead parents, absent parents, incompetent parents, stupid parents, kidnapped kids, runaway kids, kids vanishing into other worlds, etc.

James Dashner hit on a solution that I loved. I don't want to give it away, because it was a truly magical moment in the story. Tick has an excellent relationship with his excellent father, whose only fault appears to be that he is very overweight. His mother is a bit more distant in the story, but since this story is as much about a father-son relationship as it is an adventure story, I found it appropriate.

Along the way, Tick uses the Internet to find other kids who got letters as well. Unfortunately, his activities online also attracts the attention of someone who works for the enemy. The enemy's attempt to hurt Tick ends up with Tick unexpectedly meeting one of his fellow riddle-solvers. Her name is Sofia and she's a somewhat Hermione-like brainy girl, except she's Italian. Later in the story, Tick meets the wonderfully refreshing Paul, who is, in his own description, "fourteen years old, six feet tall (yes, six feet), African-American, and drop-dead handsome. I love to surf, I play the piano like freaking Mozart, and I currently have three girls who call me every day, but my mom always tells them I'm in the bathroom." I can't imagine Paul being anyone's sidekick.

A fourth youth turns up once the "extraordinary" thing happens, but I won't say too much about him. The extraordinary thing involves many secrets being revealed to both the reader and to Tick, after which the four youths embark on an adventure similar to Dorothy having to steal the Wicked Witch's broomstick.

It's a rousing adventure story. Once I started reading, I had a difficult time putting it down. I really enjoyed the father-son relationship and the oddball characters who assist the mysterious riddle-writer. Some of the riddles were easy to solve, but most would have involved significant brain work. Two of them would have involved me getting out a piece of paper and doing lots of math, but I wasn't that ambitious and I just let Tick solve those riddles for me. But all were solvable by the reader.

It is a fun book and I can definitely recommend it for children of any age (including adults), but it would probably most appeal to kids between the ages of ten and fourteen.

I never announced this novel, so here's all the links:

Amazon USA, UK, Canada
James Dashner (website, blog) (the website has a riddle game similar to the riddles in the book)
Shadow Mountain Books
(No excerpt found)

And wow; The Soulless Machine did a four-part review of this novel! How did I miss that? Here are all all the parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.


Aaron M. Wilson said...

I'm glad you liked the book. It was fun, but not my cup of tea.

Thank you for stopping by!

The Soulless Machine

CaroleMcDonnell said...

Wow, this sounds like fun. I like kid books with a contemporary feel. Internet and all. Not that I dislike nostalgic children from bygone era...but well, this sounds so grand. -C

J Scott Savage said...

I loved it. I thought Dashner's comedic moments were priceless. It was also fun in that I could read ith with my seven and ten-yer-old sons, and we wll enjoyed it.

Tia Nevitt said...

I agree. This is one I will keep for future read-alouds with my daughter.

Kimber An said...

I think this ARC is on the way to me, but I can't remember! Anyway, great review, Tia.

James Dashner said...

Hey, I was thrilled to see this review on your blog! Thank you so so much. I especially love how you "got" my story so well. We must think a lot alike. We've received a lot of good reviews, but yours seemed extra perceptive of what I was trying to accomplish in the book.

Plus, you had the perfect balance of teasers but not giving things away. I really enjoyed reading this, and will give you a shout out on my blog.

Thanks again!

Tia Nevitt said...

Wow; thank you!

James Dashner said...

You're very welcome. And thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment. I hope everyone agrees with you!

Robert said...

I guess James didn't like my review of the book ;) I enjoyed it, but it's definitely more for the younger readers...