Monday, June 6, 2016

brightwood: stardust arc reviews

by Tania Unsworth

release date: September 27 2016
by Algonquin Young Readers


synopsis: Daisy Fitzjohn knows there are two worlds: the outside world and the world of Brightwood Hall, her home--and the only place she’s ever been. Daisy and her mother have everything they need within its magnificent, half-ruined walls. They may not have a computer or phone, but Daisy has all the friends she could want, including a mischievous talking rat named Tar and the ghostly presence of a long-ago explorer who calls herself Frank.

When Daisy’s mother leaves one morning, a strange visitor arrives on the estate, claiming to be a distant cousin, James Gritting. But as the days tick by and Daisy’s mother doesn’t return, Gritting becomes more and more menacing. He wants Brightwood for himself, and he will do anything to get it, unless Daisy, with only her imaginary companions to help her, can stop him.

I received an ARC of this novel from netgalley and algonquin, so thank you to them for that! 

I absolutely love middle grade books. Especially when they're well written and have interesting premises, I just find them so full of hope and devoid of pretensions. Brightwood is a good example of this. It is an extremely well-written novel that is part thriller, part character-driven mystery, and I loved every second of it. It wasn't trying to be anything it wasn't, it wasn't too complicated, and there were no "clever" bits that always just end up making everything confusing. It was a straightforward story that I think anyone from 8 years old on would love, and it was mysterious while still maintaining that straightforwardness. It is also rather short, has an amazingly gorgeous cover, and is coming out in the fall, which is a perfect season for this atmospheric read. I would recommend curling up on a cool, damp, and gloomy fall evening and devouring this in one sitting. 

The star of the show here is Daisy Fitzjohn, an eleven year old girl with a love for animals and an enormous imagination, who has never stepped foot outside the manor house, called Brightwood Hall where she lives with her single mother. The reason for this is because her mother suffered an enormous tragedy when she was young and still harbors sadness and mistrust towards the outside world because of this event. Daisy knows little about the outside world, aside from what she reads in books or what is taught to her by her mother, but she is clever and resourceful and, at the core, good. Though she is isolated, she has her own friends, including an ever-hungry rat named Tar, a beautiful horse topiary named True, and a ghostly girl explorer named Frank. Living on the expansive grounds of Brightwood Hall, Daisy has never wanted for anything, until the day that her mother goes to the Bulk Food Store and never returns. 

After her mother's disappearance, a man shows up at Brightwood. His name is James Gritting, and he is a cousin of Daisy's mother. Daisy distrusts him from the first, and as the days stretch on with no sign of her mother, Daisy realizes that it is up to her to protect the home that she loves from this stranger who seems bent on the destruction of Brightwood and Daisy herself. What happens next left me breathless, action packed and amazingly paced as it was, and I loved how Daisy was such a capable and resourceful heroine, able to take care of herself. 

This book was fast paced and really engaging, despite the lack of human characters, and I think it would be great for adventurous kids and adults alike. It actually ended up being pretty dark, though not inappropriate for kids. It is just an atmospheric read, I think. A huge, empty manor piled high with abandoned things, a girl, alone, fighting for its survival, and a man who will stop at nothing until the house is his. It was a quick read, but one that I sincerely enjoyed! 


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