I read voraciously when I was a kid. I miss younger me and how easy it was for me to get engrossed in a book and the admirable pace I could devour them. The Westing Game was one of my very favorite books read, of the very many books I was capable of reading back then, and so when I happened across a copy, I wanted to see if the magic was still there. Short answer, no, it appears I've aged and my reading tastes have changed a good deal since I was in middle school (shocking, I know!), but it was still fun to revisit one of my old favorites.
What ensues is a fast-paced mystery with a 16 murder suspects who each have their own secrets. Younger me would have loved the many moving parts and the elaborate puzzle Raskin creates. Even having at one point read the outcome, I couldn't guess at the truth. Older me was a little baffled by the shear abundance of characters. In such a short book, it feels impossible to get a picture of any of them that is more than the briefest of caricatures. Older me prefers character development over a briskly moving plot, apparently.
Nonetheless, The Westing Game is a classic of children's literature, and it's aged surprisingly well. To read it, you'd hardly guess it was first published over 40 years ago. The shin-kicking perennially neglected but good-hearted Turtle Wexler makes a great heroine for kids to root for. As for the adult characters, it's funny to read this book as an adult and realize how recognizable some of these caricatures are from life - the self-important judge, the single-minded track star, the know-it-all intern, the bashful bride who wanted something more from her life, and the insecure person whose continuing efforts to get noticed by her peers make her that much more forgettable - they're all here.
The Westing Game is a clever, fun book that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend to a new generation.
Monday, June 17, 2019
McFadden's storytelling really shines at the beginning of the book when she is drawing out the idyll of Abeo's childhood. Well loved and ignorant of the troubles beginning to brew among the adults in her life, Abeo is insulated in her perfect life. The childlike joy Abeo feels on adventures with her visiting aunt Serafine makes it all the more potent when her perfect life is torn away and she is enslaved at the religious shrine.
After that, things get kind of strange. McFadden's writing style is blunt and simple. The book reads quickly moving from plot point to plot point with little embellishment. In fact, McFadden's writing is so straightforward at times it seems nearly artless. In the parts where Abeo is enduring torture at the ends of the "priests" at the shrine, this comes across as stark and affecting. However, in later parts of the book, it seems to gloss over the details of Abeo's recovery, oversimplifying the struggle of recovering from unspeakable trauma.
There are parts of this book that really shine. It is a compelling, unputdownable read on the surface. However, it doesn't seem to stand up to much reflection. Under scrutiny, it doesn't seem to come together all that well as a whole and the unusual writing style doesn't seem altogether appropriate to the story being told.
(My copy provided by the publisher via LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program.)