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A Reader of Fictions: My Mirror Speaks - Death Cab for Cutie

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Sunday, July 22, 2012

My Mirror Speaks - Death Cab for Cutie

Darwen Arkwright and the Peregrine Pact
Darwen Arkwright, Book 1

Author: A. J. Hartley
Pages: 438
Publisher: Razorbill
Source: Library

Description from Goodreads:
Eleven-year-old Darwen Arkwright has spent his whole life in a tiny town in England. So when he is forced to move to Atlanta, Georgia, to live with his aunt, he knows things will be different - but what he finds there is beyond even his wildest imaginings! 

Darwen discovers an enchanting world through the old mirror hanging in his closet - a world that holds as many dangers as it does wonders. Scrobblers on motorbikes with nets big enough to fit a human boy. Gnashers with no eyes, but monstrous mouths full of teeth. Flittercrakes with bat-like bodies and the faces of men. Along with his new friends Rich and Alexandra, Darwen becomes entangled in an adventure and a mystery that involves the safety of his entire school. They soon realize that the creatures are after something in our world - something that only human children possess.

First Sentence: "At first Darwen Arkwright thought the twittering he heard was part of a cheesy soundtrack piped through speakers—Woodland Sounds or something similar—designed to make the mall feel less like a concrete box in the middle of a city."

Darwen Arkwright and the Peregrine Pact is an excellent example of middle grade fiction. There are spunky young folks, fantastical situations, evil grownups and adventures galore. I was entertained fully from beginning to end by Hartley's tale. This may be my first experience with Hartley but it surely will not be my last.

Y'all, one of my favorite things is that this book is set in Atlanta. That may not be an important point for most people, but this is my hometown and I loved being able to recognize some landmarks. There wasn't a ton of that, but there was enough to satisfy me. Darwen, who has moved from England to live with his Aunt Honoria, even comments on the absurd number of streets named Peachtree, specifically mentioning one I live super close to! Just in case you're curious, an Allstate billboard has informed me that there are 71 streets named Peachtree in Atlanta, which is less than I would have thought.

The fantasy elements of Darwen Arkwright are most reminiscent of Narnia. Darwen has the rare ability to travel through magic mirrors into alternate worlds. These worlds are completely different from ours, although not precisely like Narnia, but the whole traveling business totally brought that to mind. Towards the end there's an even more specific similarity. Either way, I really like the concept of Narnia, so I was totally cool with all of this.

In the real world, we also have school drama, as poor Darwen struggles to find his place in a pompous new school in his new country. His Aunt, a lawyer, signs him up for an exceedingly privileged academy, where the students are forced to march around and be incredibly obedient. He's behind in all of the coursework and the teachers are almost all completely awful. His English teacher constantly mocks his accent and attempts to train him out of it, claiming he doesn't speak proper English.

None of this sits well with Darwen, who has never been good at fitting in, being mixed race and the only British person in the school. He quickly settles in with the school's other outcasts, albeit somewhat reluctantly. I actually really liked the way the friendships developed in this book, because they weren't immediate and had to be built. Though Darwen and Rick formed a sort of bond right away, Darwen really didn't care for Alexandra for much of the book. To be fair, she's a bit hard to take at first, like Pinkie Pie on My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. She's just so incredibly cooky and does what she wants, not caring about the opinions of others unduly.

The cast of characters is one of the most important aspects of any novel, and, if anything, I think this is even more crucial in middle grade fiction, although I couldn't really say why. Hartley's cast is excellent I think. He also avoids a common middle grade issue, which is making the solutions too easy so that the audience is headdesking at the kids' inability to figure anything out. What was cool, too, was that adults literally could not have solved the problem had they been told, because Darwen was the one who could get into the mirror world. Plus, the kids really did have the resourcefulness as a team to figure out what to do. I do think the final battle's resolution was really lame, not to mention clearly drawn from another really popular book, but it wasn't a huge detractor.

Darwen Arkwright had everything that I want out of a middle grade novel: quirky characters, a realistic depiction of school cliques, and humor. If you like middle grade novels, definitely check this one out!

Rating: 4/5

Favorite Quote: "'You're a kid,' said Alexandra. 'There is no just about it. Only adults say just a kid and what the heck do they know about anything? Have you looked at their world lately?'"

"With every sun that sets I am feeling more
Like a stranger on a foreign shore
With an eroding beach disappearing from underneath

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Blogger Andrea Mack said...

Sounds like an interesting story! I'll have to look for it.

July 23, 2012 at 7:58 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Yeah, it was very interesting for sure!

July 23, 2012 at 9:04 AM  
Blogger Kimberly @ Caffeinated Reviewer said...

Awesome review..i have a couple of middle school nieces on my Christmas shopping list and have added this title. Great review!

July 23, 2012 at 12:41 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Cool! Hope they like it!

July 23, 2012 at 1:54 PM  
Blogger Maja (The Nocturnal Library) said...

I never would have discovered this on my own and I rarely read middle grade, but this sounds so intruiguing. What really got to me, though, was the quote you finished with. Fantastic review!

July 23, 2012 at 2:47 PM  
Blogger Bekka said...

Based on that favorite quote alone, I think I'll love this book. I love middle grade fiction, though I'm not exposed to a whole lot of it. This is definitely a title I'll be looking for.

July 23, 2012 at 8:24 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Right? Isn't that quote amazing? I feel like it perfectly sums up what children's/middle grade/YA fiction is really all about.

July 24, 2012 at 8:08 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Yeah, I've been trying to read a bit more middle grade, because it can be really good!

July 24, 2012 at 8:09 AM  
Blogger Katie Marie said...

I admit, just from looking at the cover, I think I would've let this book go by. But after reading your review...I think I changed my mind. Sounds like a fun book to read. And to keep in mind for my younger siblings! Thank you!!!

August 7, 2012 at 12:56 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

If you like MG, you should definitely check it out. I thought it was super fun!

August 7, 2012 at 1:10 PM  

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