Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The Tilting House, by Tom Llewellyn

The Tilting House is a debut novel by Tom Llewellyn that was just recently published by Tricycle Press (June 2010.) I admit I was initially attracted to it because of the cover art. Whoever designed it was genius for creating a mystery for me that I felt I must solve!

The premise was equally intriguing. It is the story about the Peshik family that move into their new home with tilting floors and strange and mysterious writings all over the walls. Brothers Josh and Aaron are on a mission to find out the mysteries that this house holds and along the way we meet a whole neighborhood full of interesting and intriguing neighbors and strangers.

As some prior reviewers have said of this book - it is fast paced. It is intriguing and interesting and holds great promise. This book has a ton of great things going for it. (When I started the book I thought I might find it as fascinating as I have The Mysterious Benedict Society.) But here's what "kills" the book for me: it IS fast-paced. At a mere 150 pages, Llewellyn keeps a steady clip going, so much that certain questions are left unanswered and certain characters were not developed as well as I would have liked to see them developed. Many aspects of the story fall short of satisfying not because Llewellyn didn't have a great idea for a story. I think he had a fantastic idea for a story! He just didn't write it all out. For example, at the beginning of the story we are introduced to two gentlemen who seem to be some sort of undertakers. One of them carries a list in his coat pocket which has a list of names on it. If your name is on the list, it means that you are in danger of dying a rather untimely death. The brothers want to get this list and destroy it. I'll not tell you what happens but shortly after they interact with these men, the men disappear from the rest of the story. I'm not entirely sure what the purpose and point of mentioning them ever was. Were they pivotal? Just a side anecdote? They were an intriguing idea that were left incomplete. There were a few fanciful things that happen in this book that are also rather strangely accepted as normal. I didn't understand how and why the characters accepted some of the things that they encountered.

Yeah. It's kind of a harsh review and one that (let's be blunt here, shall we?) the author-on-the-prowl-to-read-reviews-of-their-book (we all know those types!) doesn't want to necessarily see. And normally if a book falls a bit flat for me I'm inclined to just not review it.

However, I did want to talk about this book because I think it's a fascinating and interesting example of an underdeveloped plot. I'm not sure why the story is only 150 pages. I would have GLADLY read a 300 page version of this story because there were so many interesting aspects to it. I'm saddened that the complexities of this book were not allowed to be more fully and deeply explored. Riveting plot. Great idea. Imaginative! Fun! DEFINITE kid appeal (I was thinking this would make a marvelous book for boys around the age of 10-12.) And maybe it is. Maybe a 12 year old boy would be satisfied with this. Certainly there is mystery, magic, a bit of mayhem and plenty of curiosities. But the 30 year old part of me wanted to know more and wanted to understand exactly what was going on and where Llewellyn wanted to take me with his tale.

On the whole, I'd say that if I had seen a draft of this book I would have said to the author something like this: "Fantastic! I LOVE it! Now take this and go expand on some of these ideas!!!!"

If you have a hesitant male reader in your household or in your acquaintance, definitely consider this book. I think if I had boys old enough to read this title for themselves, I'd let them. And then I'd ask them to "fill in the blanks" of the story with their own imagination and discuss the book with them. It's a fun idea and concept to be sure. I just....wish it were more.


Stephanie Kay said...

You have made me curious to read the book myself. I'm also wondering exactly how many times you've mentioned The Mysterious Benedict Society at RTK. ;) (Grinning.)

Barb @ 1SentenceDiary said...

Well, as it turns out, I *DO* have a reluctant male reader, age 14, in my house. I'll definitely be looking for this book. Thanks for the recommendation.

Ronnica said...

Ack, frusterating! It DOES sound really interesting...I'm always disappointed when a good idea isn't done as well as it deserves. Thanks for sharing!

Ronnica said...

Ha, and I love Stephanie's comment about your MBS mentions. Because of you, not only have I read them, but so have 3 children that I know. You're an influencer!

(Funny story about MBS: When I was at camp, a girl got sick. We had no TV, and she was sick of just laying there, but I remembered I had my copy of the first MBS in my car. I got it, and read the first few chapters to her...she was hooked! I of course sent it home with her to finish.)

Renee said...

You've definitely made me curious about this book! I have two boys (10 and 12) that might enjoy this book. It'll be interesting to hear their take on it. I'll let you know. Thanks for the great review!

sumthinblue said...

The cover art looks good! I haven't seen it here in the Philippines, but I'd have bought it too, if I'd seen it. Thanks for the review!

I enjoyed the Mysterious Benedict Society too -- I hope they come back for more adventures

Janet said...

Hmm. Maybe the author has set up the ideal scenario for a sequel!

Great review. This sounds like a fascinating plot, and I agree about the cover art... Definitely raises my curiosity! Too bad the story isn't as fully developed as it deserves.

Sherry said...

Maybe there was more to the book, and it's a case of bad editing?

Katrina @ Callapidder Days said...

I really appreciate your thoughts. It is so puzzling when something like this happens. So many people along the way see the book -- the author, the agent, the editor(s). Why didn't someone say, "Write more!"? That said, I, too, love that cover art. I'll probably check this out for my tween boy who loves a mystery.

Mary Elizabeth said...

Can't wait to read this one! I am currently in the middle of the Mysterious Benedict Society and loving it! I love the writing style - reminds me so much of Lemony Snicket.

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