I was pleased that Holly Black decided to maintain the mystery and the suspense over the paranormal scenario of the story all the way to the very very end. To me, that’s the best part of the whole book. Some other aspects, however, did not speak to me that much. I was told the three main characters’ personalities, a bit of their back stories, and about the fact that they had been best friends with such amazing bonds as telling those fantastical stories…. but, as a reader, I never quite “felt” any of these facts. Partly because on their “quest,” most I saw was their bickering and distrust of each other.
For example, when Zach worried about the two girls’ talking about him behind his back, his thoughts are whether they talked about he smelled bad or that he’s stupid. I would hope, that after being close friends with each other for years, there might have been some darker, deeper secrets or concerns that made Zach squirm.
There are also just so many details that do not advance the plot or our understanding of the characters. A list of 27 flavors of donuts that do not carry overt or hidden meanings baffled me.
I was also puzzled by each character’s ability to succinctly explain why have been acting in such a way toward their friends, sounding like what a therapist might present, after listening to 12/13 year olds relating the events and their feelings. Alice revealed that the reason why she couldn’t believe in Eleanor’s ghost was that “There can’t be a ghost, a real ghost. Because if there is, then some random dead girl wants to haunt Poppy, but my own dead parents can’t be bothered to come back and haunt me.” And Poppy’s confession, “I thought that we could do this thing, and when it was over we’d have something that no one else had — an experience that would keep us together.” Even Zach’s father confessed, “But I’ve been thinking that protecting somebody by hurting them before someone else gets the chance isn’t the kind of protecting that anyone wants.”
Don’t get me wrong — I believe in the validity of all of these statements and those are at the heart of this story — that we act certain ways because there are some additional, underlying emotional reasons which are seldom on the surface for others to interpret quickly or easily. I just have a bit of trouble with how all of these ideas are delivered as “statements” by these characters. I wish that readers had chances to perhaps sort some of these out by ourselves. For example, perhaps in one of the shouting matches, Alice could have said something like, “There are NO GHOSTS! If there are, WHY WOULDN’T MY PARENTS TALK O ME???!!!” (haha.. much exaggerated)
I also was not creeped out enough by the book — and I wish I had been — the cover gave me so much hope!