This book hit me in the gut. The main character Augie, is completely average. In fact, most of the time he is below average.
The book explains his struggles relating to his parents’ high expectations. There are positive influences such as a babysitter, and a math teacher, who accept him for who he is without trying to push him to be someone else.
Lisa Graff really gets into Augie’s head, and helps the reader feel for his situation. You understand his perspective, and how aware he is that he isn’t living up to his parents’ hopes and dreams.
As a reader, I hoped that Augie would find out that he had some awesome talent, like guitar playing, or art, or robot-building. But this never happens. Instead, Graff lets Augie stay as he is… average.
As such, the reader is presented with a challenge. Can they accept Augie as he is?
Often, part of the charm of reading a book is relating to a super cool main character, who can totally take on the impossible and be the chosen one. You know. Luke use the force.
This book challenges that concept. Augie as a character demonstrated to me that everyone deserves kindness and that everyone is born with the same amount of worth as everyone else.
This is one of these books that changed my entire approach to writing. (Hi, I’m a writer by the way.) “The Thickety” is just brimming with amazing technique. So, here’s what JA White can do:
1) How he introduces his characters. The sentences containing their description are instantly memorable and contain at least one trait that the reader can pick up on and is carried throughout the book (Grace’s ribbon). However, this isn’t what makes it brilliant. The scene introducing the character demonstrates their qualities immediately. You don’t have to guess that Grace is a massive villain because she shows it to you. She prevents the main character from getting medication for her brother in the first scene. What a jerk.
2) The mood and atmosphere is seriously creepy and is maintained throughout the book. The living forest, the paranoid town, the loneliness of the main character, the nethergrim, the addictiveness of spells. I couldn’t sleep after reading this thing. Which may make some people go: this is middle grade? Yes. This pushes the boundaries of horror in middle grade, but seriously, I think kids can handle it. Do you see what’s on TV these days? And lots of children’s classics are scary. Joan Aiken. I loved Joan Aiken when I was smaller and somehow I don’t think it affected me as much then as it does now.
3) The beginning and the ending have serious symmetry. This is honestly what takes this book to masterpiece level. Too often the ending of a book isn’t well-thought out and kills the entire work. Not here. The ending shocked me, yet made so much sense. The entire book had been pushing for this ending so hard that no other ending would’ve worked. Once you read it, you’re like “Oh my god, what? Oh. Of course.”
4) The writing style is very clear. Enough variation in sentence length keeps things interesting. JA White taught me that a two word sentence is okay after some longer sentences and adds colour to a manuscript.
Anyway, even if you’re not a writer this book is a seriously good read. Read it!
But do yourself a favour and keep the lights on.