Monday, May 27, 2013

when nonsense makes more sense - The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls

Title: The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls
Author: Claire Legrand
Rating: 4.8/5.0

"Victoria hates nonsense. There is no need for it when your life is perfect. The only smudge on her pristine life is her best friend Lawrence. He is a disaster—lazy and dreamy, shirt always untucked, obsessed with his silly piano. Victoria often wonders why she ever bothered being his friend. (Lawrence does too.)
But then Lawrence goes missing. And he’s not the only one. Victoria soon discovers that The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls is not what it appears to be. Kids go in but come out…different. Or they don’t come out at all.
If anyone can sort this out, it’s Victoria—even if it means getting a little messy."

This is one of the few books that I bought because I liked the cover on a whim. I had heard some good things about it on Goodreads and decided to buy it. After it shipped I looked a little deeper into the reviews and realized that it was written for a younger demographic than me. It was something that I would have read when I was in sixth grade. Needless to say I was worried that I'd wasted money on a book that was far too easy for me. I was afraid that the plot would not be complex enough. Once the book arrived I put it on its shelf where it stayed for three months. I was too afraid to open it on the chance that it would be awful.

Finally, a week ago, I got up the courage to try and read it. I wasn't expecting much at all. I was pleasantly surprised. From the first paragraph it was obvious that this was not your average middle-grade novel. The word choice is superb and is indicative of Coraline and The Mysterious Benedict Society. Once I got started I just couldn't stop.

Our heroine, Victoria Wright is our competent and likely heroine. She's the best at everything. Top of her class. Perfect hair. Perfect parents. Perfect house. Perfect city. Not so perfect friend. Well, friend is a loose term. More like project. Lawrence Prewitt, in Victoria's exact words, “...lived in a dreamer's world of ivory keys and messy shirts, unconcerned with the people around him.” And in a perfect town such as Bellview something as strange as Lawrence was not permitted. Victoria doesn't have time for friends. They slow you down. But something needs to be done with Lawrence. He's just not right and it's her job to fix him. He's obsessed with music, playing his piano whenever he gets the chance. He refused to look neat and tidy like the rest of the children. Instead, he walks hunched over, hands in his pockets, humming the tune of his favorite concerto. He's a freak. A degenerate.

But when that degenerate goes missing, it's his only friend's job to find him.
“Being nothing felt quite the same as being something. Maybe she had never been something at all.” 
Why doesn't anyone remember Lawrence? Why are his parents unconcerned with his disappearance?  And what is up with these black bugs? Victoria searches for the answer to these questions and realizes they all have one thing in common. The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls.

Along with the beautifully written text comes some amazing illustrations by Sarah Watts. I really enjoyed them throughout the story. They brought it to life, adding a beauty and creepiness to the book.

moderate spoilers ahead: skip the following until the next red text

Now, let's talk about my likes and dislikes. Usually I start with the things I didn't like...but I can't really narrow any down. So we'll just jump right into things I liked. 

First thing I liked: I didn't dislike anything! It's always nice when you run across a book that you can't say anything bad about. So you're probably wondering, why the 4.8 rating then? Because it didn't do anything that jumped out at me. It wasn't like TFioS where I cried and felt all the emotions of Hazel Grace. There are no memorable quotes that will serve me later in life. But that also wasn't the point of the book. It's supposed to be creepy and crawly and it does just that. So 4.8 because it's still a children's book and...okay so it should probably be a 5.0. But I'm being stubborn and I hate giving out 5.0's.

Second thing I liked: The parallels between Victoria and Mrs. Cavendish. It was great to see the subtle hints given throughout the book showing just how similar these two were. You really hated what Mrs. Cavendish was doing. It was wrong and unwarranted  But what was so different between what she was doing with the kids and what Victoria was doing with Lawrence?

Third thing I liked: Speaking of subtle hints, I really liked how the author was able to keep it mysterious throughout the entire book. Everything that happened in the beginning tied into something at the end. The gofers for instance. Their eyes and the candy. That was creepy. The meat and the children. The puppets and the people. The garden and Vivian. 

Fourth thing I liked: The ending. It was very "Harry Potter-esc"seeing her all grown up on her way to visit Lawrence. It gave you the closure you needed without throwing it in your face. But we all know that the epilogue for Harry Potter was crap and that it was definitely not what we wanted. Admit it. You were hoping that Voldemort would come out of the train and steal Albus Severus Potter away and the trio would whip out their wands and it would start over again. Admit it. You know you wanted it. And that is where this book really triumphs. The author restarted it over again and left it open for interpretation. I absolutely loved it. It's so hard to end it and she did it with style. 

Fifth thing I liked: It had a subtle lesson!!! It teaches that being different is okay. Not everything has to fit into your, or everyone else's idea of normal. If everyone was the same then no one would care about anything. Society is mixture of everyone's tastes. That's what makes it so interesting to be alive. What you think is important is what is important to others. 

Now I could go on about the things that I liked about this book like it's innocent puppy love, or the imagery  or the length, or plot twists, or who knows what else. But I'll stop at five for the sake of length and keyboard cramps. 

you are safe now my children: no more spoilers from here on out

I really enjoyed reading this book. It was disturbing and beautiful at the same time. I found the plot to be intriguing and the characters very likable and unique. The author planned this book meticulously and it shows. Everything ties together perfectly. I would definitely recommend it to anyone wanting a creepy but not terrifying read. 

Parents: If you're a parent you may want to look it over to see if it's something you want your child reading. If I was ten years old, it would give me a few nightmares. There are also a few very disturbing parts that even I read with my mouth agape. But I don't really see anything wrong with a middle-schooler reading this. There's nothing obscene or overdone. 

If you were a fan of Coraline then the Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls is definitely up your alley. I recommend it with no reservations. It's a quick and easy read, but is definitely not unforgettable in any way. I'll be reading it again. 

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