Saturday, November 3, 2007

Don't look back!

Another recently nominated title is The Night Tourist -- at a little more than four hours an entirely pleasurable listen. This story uses the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice as its inspiration, as -- following a near-fatal accident -- young Jack Perdu finds himself able to see and interact with the ghosts of the New York Underworld. He's guided on his visit by Euri, who quickly joins him in his quest to locate his long-dead mother, in the hope that she hasn't yet made peace with her life and moved on to Elysium (located in the Hamptons, according to Euri). Needless to say, Jack -- living -- isn't supposed to be in the Underworld, and he has just three days to find his mother and get out of there ... otherwise, he becomes a ghost as well.

This is what I call a New York-centric book. There's a lot of "insider" stuff that might not mean much to your average teen in Oregon. In addition, Jack speaks Latin and a number of historical adult figures play small parts in the story. None of this detracts from this very enjoyable and satisfying story. It's funny, suspenseful, smart, leavened with the right amount of sentiment. Jack and Euri are 14-year-olds, but this is a book for upper elementary school readers as well.

I thought the narration was a little overdone. Andrew Rannels, the narrator, read with a kind of breathless enthusiasm that became slightly exhausting over the short course of the story. This enthusiasm also skewed the book to a younger audience, I thought. It all became very gee whiz in quality. He created some good voices (some New Yorkers, an obscure Scots poet), but his Dylan Thomas wasn't very Welsh. He also occasionally sustained the speakers' character into the "he saids" part of the text (if you understand what I mean), as well as the reverse: Not starting the character's voice until after reaching the "he said" portion of a piece of dialogue.

Finally, the reading aloud may have brought some unwanted attention to phrases of somewhat purple prose and some clunky writing -- every so often inducing a cringe while listening.

It's so funny about taste, isn't it? This title was nominated by the same person who nominated Mimus, which I loved. But I'm not crazy about this title. It's a good thing there's nine of us!

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