Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Book Review: Hook's Revenge

Twelve-year-old Jocelyn dreams of becoming every bit as daring as her infamous father, Captain James Hook. Her grandfather, on the other hand, intends to see her starched and pressed into a fine society lady. When she's sent to Miss Eliza Crumb-Biddlecomb's Finishing School for Young Ladies, Jocelyn's hopes of following in her father's fearsome footsteps are lost in a heap of dance lessons, white gloves, and way too much pink.

So when Jocelyn receives a letter from her father challenging her to avenge his untimely demise at the jaws of the Neverland crocodile, she doesn't hesitate-here at last is the adventure she has been waiting for. But Jocelyn finds that being a pirate is a bit more difficult than she'd bargained for. As if attempting to defeat the Neverland's most fearsome beast isn't enough to deal with, she's tasked with captaining a crew of woefully untrained pirates, outwitting cannibals wild for English cuisine, and rescuing her best friend from a certain pack of lost children, not to mention that pesky Peter Pan who keeps barging in uninvited.

The crocodile's clock is always ticking in Heidi Schulz's debut novel, a story told by an irascible narrator who is both dazzlingly witty and sharp as a sword. Will Jocelyn find the courage to beat the incessant monster before time runs out?

What can I say about such a madcap adventure featuring the daughter of one of my favorite "villains" from childhood?  In so many ways this was one of the most thrilling books I've read - filled with pirates, sword fights, cannons, vile beasts and cannibals too!  Jocelyn had to use her wits, her ingenuity, a healthy dash of refined lady learning and her determination to face down a myriad of obstacles intent on breaking her spirit.

And that was just at the Finishing School her grandfather shipped her off to.

Told by an unnamed but grouchy narrator, the story of how Jocelyn received her inheritance and learned to attack the world her way is filled with a lot of down to earth lessons.  Having issues at school with the mean girls?  Put spiders and snakes in their bed to teach them a lesson.  Worried that you'll lose yourself to conformity?  Mold the lessons to your interests so they show your personality.  Stuck as the main course at a cannibal's feast?  Draw upon your lessons and use your craftiness to convince them they should rethink their life choices.

I joke, but Schulz treats each of Jocelyn's obstacles or problems with a healthy dose of cunning and humor.  This doesn't make Jocelyn instantly Perfect At All Things, in fact she makes mistakes and missteps that the narrator is more then happy to point out and snark that they were not very pirate like indeed.  Jocelyn perseveres however--she doggedly challenges everything and everyone to deny her what she wants.  After she figures out what she really wants that is.  Its all well and good to wish for adventure but as the narrator remarks, wishes don't do nuances so be prepared for what you get.

Fans of PETER PAN will likely delight in the references and appearances of well known characters from that book.  Jocelyn meanwhile treated Pan exactly how he oughten to be treated--like a bratty child who should be ignored.  I loved her in those moments.  I loved that she refused to be dictated to--even when it was a pigheaded thing to disagree with--not for any better reason then "You don't know me like I know me".  Several people throughout tell her she can't do this or that, but her response is always "well why not?" and sometimes they were right, but Jocelyn wanted to know for herself.  She was tired of second hand adventures, she wanted some for herself.

Really this book was wonderful.  Give to any aspiring pirate captain you may know, though be careful that they don't then try to run away to be a feared pirate...