Monday, May 3, 2010

POWERLESS by Matthew Cody: my review

UPDATE 5/26/10: This blog has been linked by KT Literary's BLOG and the AUTHOR HIMSELF! Everybody's talking about HOW EVIL IS TOO EVIL? What do you think?

Here's my original review:

I've never been much of a mystery reader, except for Mary Higgins Clark books in junior high, so I confess to being more gullible than most. All my friends said they "totally knew" the Sixth Sense secret before the end of the movie. I got to the end and was still baffled!

Still, I recognize a mystery artist when I see one--generally after the plot is explained at the end of the book/movie. That was the case with the book Powerless.

Matthew Cody is a mystery artist. From the point of view of the protagonist--an ordinary boy who loves Sherlock Holmes--the reader investigates the Case of the Missing Super Powers. At several points, I was sure I knew who the bad guy must be. But this book is twisty. You don't know what you don't know until the end, which is just plain masterful writing.

This tightly plotted mystery made me laugh and empathize. It even scared me a little. Well, the bad guy is pretty scary!

Things I loved:
  • That this story is told from the POV of a regular kid surrounded by superhero kids.
  • That the story of his grandma's cancer brings a dose of reality to the otherwise completely fantastic premise.
  • That Daniel is tough, but honest and sensitive--in other words, a great role model for kid readers.
  • That all the characters act like real people.
What I didn't love: the finality of the antagonist's actions. This does make it true to life (life's not fair, etc.), but it also left me feeling pretty down. This is one of those great debates in children's literature: should the bad guy be really and truly bad? After all, kids know there is good and evil in the world. Matthew Cody seems to side with C.S. Lewis:

"Let there be wicked kings and beheadings, battles and dungeons, giants and dragons, and let villains be soundly killed at the end of the book. Nothing will persuade me that this causes an ordinary child any kind or degree of fear beyond what it wants, and needs, to feel. For, of course, it wants to be a little frightened."

Myself, I sometimes believe this, and other times want fairy stories where no harm is permanent and it's all a good trick in the end.

Overall, a fantastic book, and one worth adding to your children's home library. It is certainly one I expect my boys to read time and time again.

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