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I follow Mr Meeks on Twitter and saw a post from him looking for Beta Readers for a new novel he was getting ready to publish. Normally, even although it is a chance to get a first look at a new book before publication, I do not, as a rule, take part in this type of process, preferring to wait until the book is published, have a look at the 'fly leaf' and then decide whether I want to purchase it, or not. On this occasion however, I sent an email to Mr Meeks and said I would be willing to take a look at the book for him, and I am glad that I did.
YA fiction in book or film form really aren't my cup of tea but I did however enjoy the Harry Potter movies a great deal and so too did many others if the film and book revenues are anything to go by and so too did Mr Meeks if this new book is anything to go by!
I absolutely loved this opening book to his planned series and if it doesn't make his name I have no idea what will.
This is essentially a story of Abby, a young girl orphaned in a fire. She is seen being rescued on TV by a rich Boston socialite, who hated the thought of having children and despised the fact that as she did, and needed to as it was a 'condition' of the marriage to a banker, that she gave birth to twin boys. She would have much preferred to have had a pretty girl to dress and fawn over, than horrible boys... and twins, double yuk!
When Abby was rescued and seen on TV she was grimy and dirty and all that Mrs Draper knew was that she was a girl, so, encouraged by his wife, Mr Draper pulled considerable strings and arranged for a swift adoption. Abby steps out of the car to be greeted by her new family only to have her new mother sneer at her as she turns away, commenting angrily, "My God, she is a ginger...." and from that moment on the 'ginger brat's' life is made even more of a living hell by her new 'family'.
Enter stage left, streetwise Stevie, also an orphan living in a local orphanage who manages to regularly escape the confines of the dormitory into the real world. He befriends Abby and they become the closest of friends.
During a visit from Stevie, when Abby has been locked in her basement room by the Drapers while they head off for the weekend to visit real family, Abby and Stevie head off to the Pak's, a Vietnamese couple who run a local store and with whom they get on well. Abby and Stevie notice a tiny little door down near the floor in one of the Pak's rooms. As they look and wonder what it could be for, there is a huge bright light that engulfs them and they suddenly find they are no longer in the Pak's store but have been transported to a meeting room with lots of other kids in it and a bunch of adults on a stage.
Buckle your seatbelts and get comfy folks. Gather your necessities around you, coffee, beer, wine snacks if you are an adult, or if you are a youngster reading this review, get your fizzy pop, sweets, chips and whatever else you might want for a couple of hours of reading - and get ready to take 'The Challenge', as this is where the book comes into it's own and you will not want to stop turning pages. You have just entered a magical world through an opening not unlike that famous train platform from somewhere else and the roller coaster of high adventure of the scary and awesomeness begins.
The characters were just right with the mixture of feisty red headed orphan girl Anny, to the self obsessed narcissistic Cindy, scholarly introverted and thoughtful Jo, Georgie the lion who begins to find his courage during The Challenge and finally to streetwise Stevie who has both courage and brains but also has the heart to look out for others.
The introduction of other characters Chancellor Alphius Omega, "but you may call me Alphie", Alouicious and those wonderful giant talking guinea pigs, Billy and Badger was masterful, even if Badger only talks in 'wheeks' was clearly due to the authors obsession with the quaint and ridiculous and teaches us all that the quaint and ridiculous should be embraced with vigour and love.
He has made it so difficult to pick a favourite character but I am particularly fond of Alouicious in the adult department and can't wait to find out what else he has in his magical pockets as I loved the fact that he carries an oasis around in his pocket for when he travels in the desert, I mean, if you were magical, why wouldn't you do that sort of thing it was such a deliciously delightful thought implanted in my mind but, as for the kids I am torn, clearly Abby is going to be the star, with Stevie at her side, as he is in the 'real world' but I do really like them all, even Cindy who had grown on me by the end of the book, . And then you give us Mr Pincer who we just know is going to be trouble along our journey and that at every opportunity he is going to go after Abby and the rest of the gang .... So, keep writing.
Reading Enjoyment: 5 out of 5
Page Count: 159
Front cover Art Work: 5 out of 5
Plot: 5 out of 5
Overall Rating: 5 out of 5