The Journal of Curious Letters (The 13th Reality Book #1)
By James Dashner
I’d give this novel 3.75 Chi’karda drives out of 5. (Read the book and you’ll know what a Chi’karda drive is)This is a really cute story. It probably reads and feels more middle-grade than any middle-grade novel I’ve ever read (take that to mean what you’d like.) There’s nothing really dark or extreme, so it should really be safe for all ages.
I always get a little apprehensive when a book tries to balance the notions of Science and Magic in the same universe. I’ve never seen it really work, but Dasnher did enough to avoid having it stand out (negatively) in this book. I appreciated that.
The main character of this book, Atticus Higgenbottom, understandably goes by “tick.” He’s so smart, that his family calls him “Professor,” but not so smart or flawless that he becomes unlikable. As a matter of fact, he gets picked on and bullied at school.
One day Tick receives a mysterious letter in the mail. He opens and finds a strange set of instructions that he must decide whether or not to commit to them. If he destroys the letter, then all will be as before; no adventure, no danger, nothing new. But, if he keeps the instructions and follows them, he can expect danger to seek him out, and challenges to thwart him at every turn.
Tick decides to follow the instructions in the letter and to help the people that the letter mentions. He wants to be part of something bigger than himself, and he’s willing to potentially sacrifice himself in the process.
Along the way he meets several other kids that have also received letters. They meet up through message forums and email on the internet. My favorite character is Sofia, the Italian girl that Tick meets first. I love the way the narrator (audiobook version) portrays her and all her fraternal digs at the other guys in the story. She has a good sense of humor, and rounded out all the boy characters.
As the story progresses, the kids communicate with each other about the clues they receive, and help where they can. All this leads up to a final moment where tick and the other kids have to follow a certain set of instructions on a certain day, and in a certain place.
As you can tell by the title of the book, the story deals with multiple realities. It’s a wild ride, and I would recommend it to virtually anyone, but especially young readers. It’s very wholesome, as it were, and a good time.
P.S. It’s probably worth noting that a lot of stories for this age group kill off parents, or come up with some other strange approach to getting them out of the way so that the children can be empowered to be the true protagonists of the story. Rather than doing that, Dashner actually had Tick confide in his father, and get power and trust from the adult to move forward the way he wanted to. That was a nice touch.
In his free time Justin loves to read, write, and play games. He enjoys his close friends, and loves to make people laugh. To learn more about Justin, or his work, you can visit him at www.justinswapp.com
Justin is the author of The Magic Shop. He has also been published in several anthologies, including The Crimson Pact (Volumes 1, 2, and 5), The Memory Eater, and Short Sips: Coffee House Flash Fiction Collection 2.