I love reading children’s literature, but sometimes I wonder if I overanalyze it as an adult reader. Then I get nostalgic, wondering what I would have thought of this book as a kid – before the veil of my life experiences became quite so thick. This is at least part of the reason for my conflicting feelings about this book.
On the one hand, I found this to be a fast-paced and exciting story. It was hard to put down and had characters that I came to love by the end of the story. My extended family lives in rural North Carolina, and I found the setting to be quite well rendered. The cultural details and idiomatic speech was right on target: treated with respect and not overdone. The story was sprinkled with humor, but the humor didn’t stem from poking fun at the characters or surrounding culture.
Difficult issues were addressed in a sensitive way: abuse, financial struggles, feeling of abandonment, not knowing who to trust. But it was the difficult issues that were passed over lightly that were disturbing to me. Like murder. I had a hard time getting past the nonchalant way that the small, tightly-knit town responded to a man being murdered in their midst. Even if he was a not-particularly-liked man, the violent and sudden death of any member of the community would surely shake the town to its roots. I just couldn’t buy the sandwich-eating crowd craning over the edge of the yellow crime scene tape, hoping to land some clues before the detective could. It’s not that I think the real life effects of murder are appropriate thematic material for children’s adventure books. But violence isn’t something that should be taken lightly. I think I’d rather stick with treasure hunts.