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Review: The Suburb Beyond The Stars
The Plot: Brian and Gregory, having survived The Game of Sunken Places, are preparing for the next Game. Brian, as winner, gets to plan it and is constructing it around old detective novels. Gregory, his best friend, is helping. The Game is part of a highly structured battle between two elfin groups, the Thussers and the Norumbegans. There are many rounds, and the ultimate winner claims the kingdom of Norumbega. The Game has been going on for ages.
Until now. Turns out, the Thussers are getting impatient. Brian and Gregory return to the mountains of Vermont to discover people are missing, the world is changing, and much more is at stake than one kingdom.
The Good: I cannot believe I didn’t review The Game of Sunken Places. Since it was published in 2004, I must have read it in my pre-blog days. I loved The Game of Sunken Places. It reminded me of the horror stories I read and loved as a teen, such as Shadowland by Peter Straub. Visiting mysterious relatives in a creaky mansion, a game come to life, high risk stakes. Actually, as I think on this — Stephen King has been known to read young adult books. I would love to see King talk about this book in his EW column.
The events of the first book are recounted at the start of The Suburb Beyond the Stars, helping out both the reader who hasn’t read the first book and the reader who read the first book years ago. I was a bit surprised when I found out about a sequel, because while I adored the first book it seemed like a standalone. Would this just be a rehash of the first book, except now being told from the point of view of the game-makers instead of the game-players?
Silly, silly me. I should know better. This is, after all, M.T. Anderson. If we lived in a world that valued genius writing the way we valued tanned twentysomethings who drink and go to the beach and clubs, Anderson would be a millionaire who required body guards to keep his fans away. “Tobin at the airport!” the headlines at TMZ would scream. His Delaware would be sung by American Idol contestants. Heck, Tobin would be one of the most popular baby names. My point being, never doubt in Anderson. Rehash? Silly, silly me.
Everything changes in this book. The Thussers have decided not to play the Game. They have not told the Norumbegans, of course. While Brian and Gregory were in Boston, playing by the rules, the Thussers have slowly begun to invade. Oh, yes, this is horror — this is scary — but it’s funny and amusing. The Thussers invade by building a suburb, a SUBURB, to attract suburbanites and then use them and that place as their point of entry to our world. They plan on taking over the planet, one suburb at a time. This is biting satire.
I could write more. I could write about the unexpected, terrifying creatures Brian and Gregory encounter. I could tell about the plotting and twists and turns. I could go on about world-building. And oh, the language! The writing! The many post-its in my book, marking a particularly amusing sentence. I could write about how while this is perfect for middle school, older teens and adults will enjoy it. I could share the excitement that the next book in the quartet, The Empire of Gut and Bone, is coming in 2011. But if I took the time to do all that, I would not have the time to explore the tie-in interactive website that Scholastic has put together. Before I go, two quick things. Yes, this is a Favorite Book Read in 2010. And here is a link to the trailer for the book (because I cannot get it to embed in this blog).
About Elizabeth Burns
Looking for a place to talk about young adult books? Pull up a chair, have a cup of tea, and let's chat. I am a New Jersey librarian. My opinions do not reflect those of my employer, SLJ, YALSA, or anyone else. On Twitter I'm @LizB; my email is email@example.com.
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