My book club chose to read Far Far Away by Tom McNeal last month. It was a good book that reminded me of a fairy tale, but had some aspects that kept me from really loving it. First, a synopsis:
It says quite a lot about Jeremy Johnson Johnson that the strangest thing about him isn’t even the fact his mother and father both had the same last name. Jeremy once admitted he’s able to hear voices, and the townspeople of Never Better have treated him like an outsider since. After his mother left, his father became a recluse, and it’s been up to Jeremy to support the family. But it hasn’t been up to Jeremy alone. The truth is, Jeremy can hear voices. Or, specifically, one voice: the voice of the ghost of Jacob Grimm, one half of the infamous writing duo, The Brothers Grimm.
Jacob watches over Jeremy, protecting him from an unknown dark evil whispered about in the space between this world and the next. But when the provocative local girl Ginger Boultinghouse takes an interest in Jeremy (and his unique abilities), a grim chain of events is put into motion. And as anyone familiar with the Grimm Brothers know, not all fairy tales have happy endings…
One thing I thought was interesting was how very much like a fairy tale this story was. It has a hero and heroine, a dastardly villain, and a lot of fairy tale references throughout. It was almost as if the author was writing a modern-day fairy tale, which was really neat, in my opinion. I bet it would be quite easy to write a paper on this book comparing it to the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales.
I also liked the main characters. There’s Jeremy, a boy who can hear ghosts but not see them. He is sort of an outcast because no one really believes this, but he doesn’t let it bother him too much. Then there’s Ginger, a feisty redhead who befriends Jeremy and comes to care for him throughout the book. Finally, there is the ghost of Jacob Grimm who follows Jeremy around and tries to protect him. All of these characters were interesting and well-rounded, and the side characters were, as well.
The pacing in this book was pretty good, too. It kept me entertained for the most part, although my attention did wane in a few spots. This might just be me, though, because I like a lot of action in the books I read and there wasn’t much happening at those points in the story.
I loved the ending of this book! Everything was wrapped up perfectly. I didn’t have any questions left over and I was pretty much satisfied with the ending. I’m glad that everything works out in the end for everyone, even if I felt a bit disappointed with what happens to the villain. I wish that the villain had gotten more of what they deserved, but I’m still okay with how their story ended.
Now for the things I didn’t really care for. The first thing that bothered me was that in the beginning of this book, I couldn’t figure out what time period it was set in. On the very first page, Jeremy’s town is referred to as a village, which makes me think the middle ages or some era like that. But then, ten pages later, it mentions a truck, which didn’t fit with that idea. Eventually I figured out that it took place in a more recent time period, but I was pretty confused for a while.
Another thing that confused me was the ages of the characters. It didn’t say how old Jeremy was until page 141. For the first few pages, I was thinking he was in middle school for some reason. Then one of his classmates drives by in a truck, so I knew then that he had to be at least driving age. I still was unsure as to how old Jeremy actually was until it said he was fifteen on page 141.
There were several things in this book that seemed pretty unrealistic to me. For example, Jeremy’s father has been out of work for years, and Jeremy only works part-time doing yardwork. How have they survived this long with almost no income? Also, Jeremy’s school in his little village offers a class on classical vocabulary, which teaches the students the Latin/Greek roots of words. I live in a town of about 30,000, yet my high school never offered anything like this and my town sounds way bigger than Jeremy’s does! These are just a couple examples of things I thought felt unrealistic in this book.
I guessed who the villain was long before it was revealed. Within the first hundred or so pages, I had guessed who it was. I usually go with the flow in books and don’t actively try to figure out who the bad guy is or what’s going to happen next, so I was quite surprised when it was revealed that my guess was correct. I don’t think it’s good that I solved it that early, but at the same time, a couple members of my book club didn’t figure it out at all until it was revealed, so I don’t know if it was just me or what.
One last thing I want to mention is that there is a bit of psychological torture in this book, and the villain starves his prisoners almost to the point of death. I don’t care for that sort of thing, so at that point in the story, I had to flip forward a few pages to make sure that the prisoners have a happy end. I just thought I would make a note of it for people who might have a problem with something like that.
Far Far Away was an interesting book that I enjoyed reading, even if I did have a few issues with it. I would recommend it for people who love a good fairy tale with a perfectly happy ending. I give it 3 stars out of 5.