Of course, that might just be me.
On to the book! Juniper Berry's parents are famous actors and she loves them very much. They've always had a wonderful life together, acting out her scripts, playing games together and being a marvelous, if somewhat eccentric family. But slowly that's all changed. Now her parents hardly notice her, fans are clamoring at the gate, and Juniper feels that she's slowly becoming invisible and forgotten. She's delighted when she meets Giles, a scrawny weakling of a boy who lives next door and has sneaked in to her estate. He has something to add to the mystery - his parents also have become strangely distant and increasingly odd but he's actually followed them and thinks the solution to the mystery can be found in an ancient tree in the forest.
Together, Juniper and Giles explore a world they never knew existed and, like their parents, face their own fears, desires, and decide what they truly want most in the world. As the subtitle says, this is "A tale of terror and temptation" and while readers will recognize several fairy tale and mythic elements and characters, the real heart of the story is choosing what you want out of life and what you're willing to sacrifice to get it.
The story has an atmosphere of horror and growing tension as Juniper discovers more and more oddities about her parents, culminating in several scenes of horror. Giles' story is more centered on his temptation to be what he isn't but desperately wants to be - accepted, strong, popular, normal. Juniper wants to go back to the way things were, Giles wants to move forward to the way things might be. There's never much doubt that Juniper will choose to save her parents; but will she be strong enough?
[Note - there was no art in the galley I reviewed, so I haven't commented on that aspect]
Verdict: This book is tautly plotted and skillfully written. It's an easy read for the average middle grade reader and will appeal to those who like creepy fantasy and atmospheric, haunting tales. If you have children who like stories that are a little more thoughtful and dark, this will be the book for them. My patrons lean more towards straight fantasy and contemporary, so this isn't for us, but it would definitely find an audience in a larger library.
ISBN: 9780061998690; Published April 2011 by Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins; ARC provided by publisher at ALA Midwinter 2011