Saturday, March 19, 2016

Teen review: Fantasy/Horror

Cuckoo Song
by Frances Hardinge
408 Pages
Recommended for grades 8-10

Reviewed by Kira Toal

“It’s as if they’re wearing a lie, but it doesn’t fit them. They haven’t buttoned it the right way, so it’s baggy in some places and coming away in others.” 
Thirteen-year-old Triss is not well. She knows this from the moment she awakens in an unfamiliar room, surrounded by adults she cannot place, and unable to recall who she is or how she got there. Though Triss slowly regains fragments of her memory, a mass of unanswered questions remain in her head, such as: Why does her sister hate her? How did she, in her severe medical condition, survive a fall into the Grimmer (a body of water near her family vacation home)? Why does she wake up covered in leaves and dirt? Why is she constantly ravenous, and why do the dolls speak to her?

This novel is so full of twists and mystery that it’s a bit difficult to write a review without giving anything away, but I can tell you that Cuckoo Song instantly became a favorite of mine. What’s not to love? There’s a gritty and compelling plot, driven by fascinating characters and the author’s absolutely gorgeous style of writing. The story is full of suspense and drama, but it isn’t quite as dark as the cover may suggest. In fact, the only criticism I have of the book is that it could have been a bit more frightening, so don’t be discouraged by the cover.

What made the book such a fun read for me were the characters. I loved the interactions between all of them, especially the hilarious (and accurate) love-hate relationship between Triss and her younger sister, Pen. The characters, human or otherwise, were both easy to love and easy to hate. Either way, the characters brought the book to life and drove the fascinating plot through the truly magical writing style of Frances Hardinge.

I easily give this book 5 stars! It was impossible to put down, and I guarantee that you will enjoy it yourself!

Editor's note: Although I have not read this book, I would definitely try it out, after having read Hardinge's Fly by Night, which was weird and wonderful! It reminded me of several books--the Inkheart books of Cornelia Funke because there's a lot of book mythology in it, the Septimus Heap books by Angie Sage, because of the quirkiness of the characters and settings, and a tiny bit of the Lemony Snicket books (although I rather disliked those) because of the odd relationships between children and adults. And the language, oh the language is delicious!

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