The Real Boy, by Anne Ursu
The Real Boy grabbed my emotions like few books do.
For starters, I'll just go ahead and admit that I didn't see the connections between this book and the classic Pinocchio until waaaaay too late in this awesome middle grade. Our protagonist had me so enthralled in his worry that he wasn't like other kids that I couldn't think of much else besides how much I felt for him and his situation.
The protagonist, Oscar, is the most engaging part of this story. I don't want to spoil anything for you, but The Real Boy's Oscar has a unique perspective of the world that makes you root for him more than most characters. He's flawed in a deep, deep way, but his flaw is also his strength. I haven't felt for a character like I felt for Oscar in a long, long time.
What follows the setup is a wonderfully twisty story full of magic and betrayals and friends and mysteries that will keep you on your toes throughout. Ursu does a great job of never giving you entirely what you expect, and that's hard to do.
And she does it with a command of language that we often don't find even in adult books. I've said it before ... Ursu's writing proves that if you write a great story in a beautiful way, those age categories just fall away, leaving a wonderful reading experience for everyone.
What The Real Boy is:
A book for young readers about a boy who's sure he doesn't work right, who believes he's broken and doesn't belong, and who has to learn to be okay with that. It's also a great fairy-tale-style fantasy with alchemy (see my review on The Blackthorn Key for more on how much I love alchemy).
Who it's for:
Honestly, everyone. But especially those who like their stories with a fairy-tale tone, and who love to root for the underdog.
Who it's not for:
If you're an adult who only likes adult books about adult things, or someone who only wants to experience things that happen in our contemporary world, then I guess you might not like this book. But that's a big if.
The Real Boy came out in 2015 (and yes, I'm just now posting a review... because it deserves to be remembered). Anne Ursu also wrote another middle grade in a similar vein that I also loved, titled Breadcrumbs.
Reminder of Sean's review policy
Sean doesn't give bad reviews of books. If there's a book he didn't quite click with, he just won't review it. Odds are, it just wasn't a book for him, and someone else will love it. Follow the link for more on Sean's Review Policy.