The cover of The Curse of the Boggin, a brand new series from D. J. MacHale titled The Library, hooked me right away because it looks so similar to a series that I adore and am SO thrilled that my son has started reading so that we can talk about it, Lockwood & Co. by Jonathan Stroud. While the actual similarities between the two series are slim at best, (Stroud's books feature teenaged characters and the world he creates is much more complex and creepy, the stories more intricate and the relationships between the main characters are layered and evolving) The Curse of the Boggin was an exciting read and the premise of The Library is a fascinating one!
After a prologue that sets up the adventure to follow in The Curse of the Boggin, we meet middle schooler Marcus O'Mara as he is standing up to a bully. Unfortunately, this bully just happens to be a teacher and Marcus is sent to detention where he has an incredible experience involving a mad, charging bull, a ghostly man in a bathrobe holding a key on a string and a shattered trophy case with the words, "Surrender the key," carefully arranged in broken glass. Once he realizes that he is not crazy, Marcus begins collecting clues that help him unravel the mystery of the key. This key leads to a very special library filled with the unfinished stories of the dead that need finishing. The holder of the key is tasked with the job of helping to finish these stories, allowing spirits to find peace and books to be shelved.
In this first book in the series, Marcus, who is adopted, learns about his parents, their mysterious deaths and the secret life his father led. He also learns that the Boggin, an ancient boogeyman summoned by the Druids to keep children in line, has gone rogue. In his quest to capture the Boggin and finish the story of the ghostly man in the bathrobe, Marcus is not alone. He has the help of his appropriately diverse friends. In fact, Marcus even comments that, with Lu, a red lipstick and plaid wearing Asian roller derby girl, and Theo, a buttoned up, bow-tie wearing academic black guy, Marcus says that the three of them look like a "kids' show trying to cover all its ethnic bases." Or, the look like characters in a middle grade novel where the author is trying to cover the ethnic bases while still keeping the main character a caucasian boy. I am growing increasingly weary of authors adding ethnically diverse minor characters to books instead of making the main character something other than white in the same way that I am profoundly frustrated with the proliferation of boys as main characters in middle grade fantasy. The formula has shifted from one or all boys as the main characters to a boy with a sister, cousin or friend who is a girl as a secondary character, often with another boy forming a trio. Now, with all the talk about diversity, we are getting ethnic secondary characters, which I guess is progress, even if it is moving slowly.
Marcus finds a way to capture the Boggin and save the day, along the way uncovering snippets of stories that are sure to be featured in the next book in this series. The action in The Curse of the Boggin is fast paced and explosive, although ultimately an illusion conjured by the Boggin itself. Comparing MacHale and Stroud's books, I would say that MacHale has written a book that is perfect for readers who like a touch of the supernatural and a lot of action with an underdog hero who, with a little bit of smarts, finds a way to save the day. Stroud's series is perfect for (slightly older) readers who want a more literary experience, delving deeper into both the world of the supernatural and the characters who inhabit it.
Source: Review Copy