Although there are those who disagree that John Connolly’s The Book of Lost Things is a YA book, to this reader it was. Ever since reading the Harry Potter series, I have loved the magical world of fantasy. Most of the books in this genre are not humorous. John Connolly’s off the wall spin on some of the most enduring fairy tales was laugh out loud funny. There’s Little Red Riding Hood turned steamy, Goldilocks and the three bears and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs turned juvenile delinquent, and Hansel and Gretel’s house becomes poisonous—who knew chocolate was that bad. Then there are the talking books, sometimes sneering, sometimes whispering, kind of like a persistent chattering in the background.
David, a twelve year old loses his mother to cancer finds out that his dad has other things in store than to sit by and wait life out. The father meets Rose, who becomes pregnant and they marry. Now Rose is not the evil stepmother that David sees her as. His opinion of his step-brother Georgie is no better. The setting is Great Britain during WWII. Long story short, David’s dreams propel him into another world, one that he quickly learns can and has killed. The flowers with child’s eyes on them is the first sign. David is there to find his mother. She as he believes at the time, has called to him. “Rescue me.” Ultimately turns into a quest to return home and try again. Along the way, two male figures, a Woodsman and a dishonored knight, Roland befriend David, keep him safe from harm. There is every manner of creature, both real and fantastical, flora and fauna that are animated, not always for the good. A dying king, not unlike David in many ways, rules the kingdom in name only; he is a mere puppet for the one that calls the shots. David must contend with all of this. He does, becoming more of a young man than a boy by the end. In some ways, this loss of innocence is too bad. A child should have the time and the freedom to be a child, to play in a protected world where he is loved. This becomes David’s present to his step-brother Georgie.
A few things that did not gel with this reader: The reappearance of the Woodsman felt hokey in spite of this being a fantasy paranormal novel where most anything goes. The removal of the noses from some of the creatures by the Crooked Man and the wreath created with these bordered on being too gory for YA. I could imagine a YA reader exclaiming, “Gross!” Finally, the father works in a CIA-like type agency during the war and he tells David to some degree what he does—not very real sounding. Weren’t there state secrets acts back then?
Other than that, John Connolly kept me entertained on my 50 mile journey to and from work. I listened to it on Audible and the narrator sounding slightly British in an otherworldly manner was fabulous.