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A Reader of Fictions: Review: The Spindlers

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Review: The Spindlers

The Spindlers

Author: Lauren Oliver
Pages: 256
Publisher: HarperCollins
Source: For review from YA Books Central

Description from Goodreads:
One night when Liza went to bed, Patrick was her chubby, stubby, candy-grubbing and pancake-loving younger brother, who irritated and amused her both, and the next morning, when she woke up, he was not. In fact, he was quite, quite different.

When Liza's brother, Patrick, changes overnight, Liza knows exactly what has happened: The spindlers have gotten to him and stolen his soul.

She knows, too, that she is the only one who can save him.

To rescue Patrick, Liza must go Below, armed with little more than her wits and a broom. There, she uncovers a vast world populated with talking rats, music-loving moles, greedy troglods, and overexcitable nids . . . as well as terrible dangers. But she will face her greatest challenge at the spindlers' nests, where she encounters the evil queen and must pass a series of deadly tests--or else her soul, too, will remain Below forever.

From "New York Times" best-selling author Lauren Oliver comes a bewitching story about the reaches of loyalty, the meaning of love, and the enduring power of hope.

First Sentence: "One night when Liza went to bed, Patrick was her chubby, stubby, candy-grubbing  and pancake-loving younger brother, who irritated and amused her both, and the next morning, when she woke up, he was not."

Lauren Oliver debuted in 2010 with Before I Fall, and The Spindlers is her fifth published work, not counting novellas. Her sixth, Requiem, the conclusion to the Delirium trilogy comes out early next year. Simply put, she has blasted into popularity, prolific and talented, to become one of the most loved and admired YA/MG authors. Of the three books of hers I've read, The Spindlers was my least favorite, but still contained some of the wonderful bits that make Oliver's work such a joy to devour.

In The Spindlers, Lauren Oliver tackles a pretty standard fairy tale plot: the child whose sibling has been replaced with a changeling and the resulting quest bent on rescue. Liza wakes up to find her brother not himself. He looks the same and he has a lot of the same behaviors, but he is both too nice (perfect table manners and politeness) and too mean (spelling out 'I HATE YOU' to his sister in his alphabet cereal). Liza immediately knows what has happened to him: the Spindlers, spider creatures, have taken his soul, and, should it not be replaced soon, the shell of his body will turn into dust.

As is common in middle grade books, only Liza can save her brother from this tragic fate. Her parents refuse to believe her assertions that something is wrong with Patrick and tell her to grow up, now too old for stories. Unwilling to allow her brother to die, Liza determines to go look for him herself, so she goes down to the basement and into the crawl space. Once there, she falls into a deep hole.

It turns out the crawl space in her house connects to the Below, a world populated by the magical creatures her favorite babysitter, Anna, always told her about. She immediately gains a companion in the form of Mirabella, a rat who imitates humans. Mirabella also happens to be in possession of a number of articles stolen from her family. I'm glad to know that all of the things I can't find were not in fact lost through my carelessness but swiped by troglods.

Mirabella creeps me out a lot. Now, it's not because she's a rat. I know rats can be alright. One of my best friends in college had three rats senior year, and they were friendly creatures. Mirabella, though, sounds every kind of unpleasant. For one thing, she's person-sized. She wears clothing and a matted wig. She smells like a sewer, but covers her face in powder and mascara in an attempt to meet human standards of beauty. Basically, she will probably haunt the dreams of some. Call me vain, but I could not get past my immense distaste for Mirabella.

Liza's journey reminded me of any number of books. There was little I found especially original about this tale, except for the nocturni, which were really cool. Otherwise, the monsters, while new to me in name, fit classic molds. Still, I suspect the array of creatures will delight and terrify younger readers as they are intended to do. What Lauren Oliver brings to the story is her way with words. She has a glorious way of writing, one that I think will hold a lot of appeal for children, who also often like stories to follow familiar paths more than I do.

For fans of books like Gregor the Overlander or Coraline, The Spindlers will be a delight. 

Rating: 3/5

Favorite Quote: "That was what her parents did not understand—and had never understood—about stories. Liza told herself storied as though she was weaving and knotting an endless rope. Then, no matter how dark or terrible the pit she found herself in, she could pull herself out, inch by inch and hand over hand, on the long rope of stories."

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Blogger Gina @ My Precious said...

Great review. I totally agree with you, The Spindlers was really good, but just not my favorite Oliver book. I'm partial to Lisel and Po. I picke the Nocurni as my favorite creatures, too. I didn't mind the rat Mirabella as much as you, but I still didn't whole-heartedly trust her.

October 28, 2012 at 3:11 PM  
Blogger Audra said...

Hm, too bad -- was curious about this but don't read much MG fiction -- and while this sounds interesting enough, I don't feel grabbed to get it. The cover is cute, though!

October 28, 2012 at 4:52 PM  
Blogger Angela @ Reading Angels said...

This one sounds like something I need to pick up for the school library. I think the kids would enjoy it.

October 28, 2012 at 8:14 PM  
Blogger Jenni said...

Mirabella sounds GROSS! Ah! It's too bad this one wasn't a bit more original. I loved Before I Fall, Delirium, and Pandemonium but I haven't read any of her MG books. After this review I will probably start with Liesl & Po, not this one. Great review!

October 28, 2012 at 8:59 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I just got this book from a friend last week to read with my 9 year old. I'm reading it purely for Oliver's language (which I can see from your excerpt is just as good as ever:)

I'm a bit worried about the large rat with the pretty name, however. I kind of have a thing about animals dressed in clothes. It doesn't always bother me in kids books, but like those dressed up weimaraners in artist William Wegman's stuff? Yeah. They totally freak me out.

Enjoyed your review:)

October 29, 2012 at 3:57 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

I've heard that Liesl and Po was much better, and I do plan to read that one at some point for sure! The Nocturni were very cool.

Really? Mirabella just squicked me out!

October 30, 2012 at 10:32 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

There's better MG fiction for you to read if it's a rarity. The cover is totes adorbs, though!

October 30, 2012 at 10:33 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

I imagine it's much stronger for kids!

October 30, 2012 at 10:33 AM  
Blogger Christina said...


I've heard Liesl and Po is much better, so that's probably a better place to start.

October 30, 2012 at 10:34 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Her language is still lovely, and that's what kept the rating at a 3. Otherwise it was mostly meh for me, sadly.

Mirabella is awful. I don't think you're going to like that at all.

October 30, 2012 at 10:34 AM  
Blogger April (BooksandWine) said...

I'm just a big Lauren Oliver fan and loved all of her books, but re: the rat, dude, hell no. Just no. Like, rats scare the heck out of me.

That stated, I will still read and buy this book some day, just not immediately.

October 30, 2012 at 3:37 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Yeah, I certainly don't want to talk people out of reading it, but to go in with their eyes open to not expect it to be as mind-blowing as some of her other books.

The rat really bothers me. And I usually love anthropomorphized animals.

October 30, 2012 at 4:38 PM  

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