I'm researching "books for young people" to find out what makes them tick. I tried to get some of Andy Stanton's "Mr.Gum" books from the library but the popular bastard is all out. I have nominated him as my personal nemesis and shall not rest until I crush him. Well, I may power nap - just so I'm on top of my game.
So the book I have taken out is "The Thornthwaite Inheritence" by Gareth P. Jones, popular author, or so I'm led to believe by BLOOMSBURY ("get 'im!) his publisher, of the "Dragon Detective Agency" books. I'm a hundred pages in, or rather I have completed the first "Act" (it's in, unsurprisingly, three acts)and it tells the story of text-book emo twins who stall their attempts on each other's lives as adventures unfold around them in their big spooky house. It's written for the 10-12 year olds, the golden range, and is a whopping 263 pages long. Girl.Com (my one-stop-shop for cultural commentary) said this:
"A delightfully twisted and humorous gothic tale for fans of mayhem, mishap and misadventure. Ideal for both boys and girls with a flare for the mischievous and an appreciation of deadly whodunits."
Now. It's alright. The chapters are short. Information is supplied on the Thornthwaite family from a cast of family retainers (so unfleshed out they resemble a burns unit!)the twins are pleasant enough and there are a series of incidents and enough winks and tears to make you imagine revelations to come; allignment pacts to be drawn and withdrawn and everything may not be what it seems. But it's pretty slow. The characters are thin. At the beginning of the book we learn that Lorelli and Ovid (the twins) have been attempting to kill each other for thirteen years but once they agree a truce Lorelli seems like the most unlikely person ever to try and kill her brother: she reads romance novels and moons around after the accountant's sporty son. The retainers retain, defined by their jobs, and the ancestors are wicked droight de seigneur types from the get go. The murderous set pieces are a bit dull and a bit too easily resolved - a lot of jumping in and out of lakes.
And the language: "The buzzing of bees swarming towards Lorelli and Adam sounded like and aeroplane flying low overhead."
I have recognised, based on this book and this book alone, that my language is too ornate, too gilded. I need to flatten my metaphors, strip-mine each paragraph and throw the stuff that I think is gold away: it's fool's gold. I need to stop trying to impress people with cleverness or make them laugh with jokes - the story is the thing. Also my set pieces are too gnarled and whorly; I use too much imagination. While the book is described as being full of "wit" and "whimsy" it contains neither. Purposefully, I think. What it does have is a well worn narrative rut, Tim Burton emo-lite protagonists and a series of distinctly non-fatal death traps. I'm only a third of the way in though. I'll see how it fares.
I'm glad I did this though. Very interesting.