Tuesday, March 10, 2015

"The Spindlers" by Lauren Oliver

The bookstagram community, or at least those I follow within that community, are big fans of Lauren Oliver. Her YA novels "Panic" and "If I Stay" pop up in my feed pretty regularly, and I've heard good things. So when I was browsing Overdrive for a short audiobook to listen to while I wait for some holds to come in, I recognized Lauren Oliver's name and decided to give this a try.

"The Spindlers" tells the story of Liza, who wakes up one morning to discover that her little brother Patrick isn't himself. Someone is pretending to be Patrick, and her parents don't believe her. So, Liza embarks on a journey into the underground to rescue her brother from the spindlers - evil, spider-like creatures who feast on children's souls. Along the way she meets Mirabella, a rat who wants to be as human-like as possible and helps Liza navigate the underground and explains the other creatures and beings with whom she comes into contact.

On a basic level, this is a solid adventure story - Liza is a charming heroine with an admirable resolve to rescue her brother at all costs, and Mirabella is a wonderful sidekick, providing guidance in a strange world and comic relief balanced with just the right amount of heart. I was particularly impressed that she did not descend into a slapstick, goofy character as a rat wearing a newspaper skirt easily could. Instead, Oliver allows the sympathetic, sincere elements of her personality to shine through.

That gets at the deeper level that sets this story apart. Driving the adventure story are Liza's relationships - with her brother, whom she feels a responsibility to protect; with Mirabella, whom she comes to consider a friend; with her baby-sitter, who originally told her about the spindlers and is now away at college; and with her parents, who are distracted with grown-up, real-world concerns. Viewed through Liza's young eyes, her ambivalence or lack of understanding to her parents' concerns and her distress over her baby-sitter's absence ring true and firmly root the book in the real world. Oliver hints at the hope and love children can inspire in the older folks surrounding them, and parents and caretakers will recognize and respond to these tiny elements sprinkled throughout.

Verdict: Affirmed, a charming tale to share with the children in your life, that you'll enjoy along the way. Plus, Simon Vance's audio narration is superbly done, as always.

"The Spindlers" by Lauren Oliver, published on October 2, 2012 by HarperCollins; audio narration by Simon Vance, published on October 2, 2012 by HarperCollins.

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