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Far, Far Away

by Tom McNeal

Published by Alfred A. Knopf, 2013
371 pages
ISBN: 978𢠥75-849725

Age 14 and older

The benevolent spirit of Jacob Grimm has haunted teenager Jeremy Johnson Johnson since he was a child. Jeremy lives in the small American heartland town of Never Better, and the ghost has provided far more support and guidance across the years than the boy抯 depressed, reclusive father. A loner by circumstance (no one wants to befriend the kid who hears a voice in his head), Jeremy is shocked but pleased when classmate Ginger Boultinghouse invites him to the bakery for cake. Later, Jeremy is quick to agree when Ginger asks him to participate in a harmless prank against the well-liked baker. Jeremy is caught by the seemingly vindictive Deputy McRaven but doesn抰 rat on Ginger, and a friendship blossoms. In a town quick to judge, Jeremy has finally found a real friend. But there is malevolence in the air. Jacob, the novel抯 narrator, senses it but doesn抰 know the source, although Deputy McRaven seems a likely candidate. By the time Jacob realizes his mistake, both Jeremy抯 and Ginger抯 lives are in peril. Never Better feels like the gingerbread house in the forest, and Tom McNeal lulls readers into a false sense of ease, despite Jacob抯 repeated warnings, before revealing danger inside. He uses fairy tale archetypes and patterns that add texture and depth to what could be a contemporary news story of a deranged criminal. The gruesomeness is largely psychological or implied, and is always counterbalanced by Jacob抯 presence, as his genuine concern for Jeremy and others is never in doubt in a novel in which many of the characters reveal unexpected depth.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

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