The Book Review Club - The Adventurer's Guide to Successful Escapes
The Adventurer's Guide to Successful Escapes
Wade Albert White
Of late, I have been deep in middle grade. What a wonderful place to be. If Adult is all about "letting go" and YA is all about "getting a grip", then I'd say MG is all about unbridled exploration. Gene Rodenberry was a middle grade writer at heart.
The Adventurer's Guide to Successful Escapes (AGSE for short) doesn't disappoint. There are some significant archetypes in this story: orphan, arch villain, a quest. Yet, Wade embraces them as archetypes and then delves below in novel and unexpected ways. Imagination abounds.
Basic premise: Anne escapes St. Lupin's orphanage with her friend Penelope via a gauntlet and unexpected quest she is now bound to complete or die trying (or get thrown in jail for life if she fails). Hiro, a magician whose spells have some dire kinks, joins them as they race to solve the Quest Riddle and find Anne's true home in a world akin to our own, but filled with magic, divided into tiers, and based on a computer system with an error, and the clock is ticking. Oh, and don't forget the registered villain, St. Lupin's Matron, who has sworn to stop Anne or die trying.
It's a fast-paced, fun adventure. What got me thinking is the use of omniscient third. The older I get, the more ambivalent I become about POV. Is there really only one voice that could fit a story? That seems like saying there is only one true soulmate for me in the whole world, which means if anything happens to him, I'm doomed to a life of lonely solitude (brightened only by middle grade reads). Given how we women tend to live A LOT longer than our male soulmates, I kind of hope that's not the case (no offense to the middle grade books out there). Or to POV. But come on, even Monet did his waterlilies from multiple angles.
So what does POV do for a story? In this case, omniscient third allows White to take both a bird's eye view and a soulful look into his characters, although that really only occurs for Anne, so this may be more of a case of close third. Nevertheless, I find that getting outside the character's skin makes a story feel more "told" ... in a good way. There is distance between the reader and what's happening, one that for young readers, creates a safety barrier. Coupled with simple past, they are in the story, but it's a story that already happened, that already had a resolution. Things are gonna be okay. Probably. It's truly ancient storytelling at it's best. "Sit back," the writer says, "And listen. I'm going to scare your socks off, but you'll get them back at the end. Probably."
Omniscient third also creates a bigger picture. We get to see more of the angles to the story. It gives it a more epic quality, perfect for a quest.
And finally, omniscient third allows us to take a break and look elsewhere, thus keeping the storytelling fresh as we move from one fast-paced turn to the next.
I review books that surprise me, jar me, make me think. They are books I've bought, borrowed from the library, or been given as a gift. I do accept ARCs, but will only review a book if it moves me. It's about the writing. If I'm moved, I pass it on in a review.