I'm finally partially back into the swing of things. That means I've taken it into my head to give my unsolicited advice about a "kids'" book I recently read.
But I'm not really sure if it's a "kids'" book. It is shelved in the juvenile fiction section of our library. Now, I noticed that our library also has a young adult section across the room, and I've always assumed that this section is for books more appropriate for teenagers, somewhere in the 14-18-year-old range. But this book is about a 14-year-old and is about some pretty heavy stuff.
Wonder Show by Hannah Barnaby is about Portia, a young girl who is abandoned by her parents and later her aunt. She is handed over to the dubious and dark fellow who runs McGreavey's Home for Wayward Girls. Suffice it to say that it is a bad place run by a bad dude.
It's also a dark place where her friend commits suicide. And Mister has secrets.
Portia ends up running away and joining up with the freak show at the circus. Since she's a "normal," she ends up being abnormal. With a host of colorful characters joining in the narrative, Barnaby definitely kept my interest. However, along with colorful characters comes colorful language in a few places, language I definitely don't think is appropriate for the younger set. There's also a colorful allusion to the sex act between two former freak show performers.
As an adult, I enjoyed the read, but I wouldn't say this is a great work of literature. Barnaby's writing has some high points, mostly contained to the beauty of her language. She also painted some vivid characters.
I would say a weakness of the novel is a feel of not being certain that the author knew where she was going with the story. Maybe that was on purpose since Portia was wandering, too, but it didn't really work for me.
As a mother, I do not want my children to read this book until they are older teenagers because of the language, the rather lewd allusion to sex, and because of the general dark feel to the book, even if the book does end on a hopeful note. Unlike some books I think should wait until my children are older, I don't really see any reason they should be awaiting their 15th birthday just so they can run and check this one out at the library.
One thing this book has caused me to think about is the distinction between the label "juvenile" and "young adult" on novels. In fact, I hope to investigate how this labeling happens at our library. I would really like to see the "younger kids'" section at the library a little safer for younger kids to navigate. And there are probably a few other half-decent books that older teens might enjoy that are lost in the "little kids'" section.
So my overall recommendation is to avoid this one for the younger set, but, if you're not avoiding all bad language and hints of sex, then your (probably older than 14) child (probably girl) might enjoy this book.