I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This fact has not altered my views on the book and I strive to provide my unaltered and completely honest option, for better or for worse.
One minute Jack’s in math class. The next, he’s on a dark, cobblestoned, empty street. Empty, that is, except for a skinny girl wrapped in a threadbare shawl. “Matches, mister?” she asks, and just like that, Jack’s life collides with one of Hans Christian Andersen’s grimmest tales. And just when he has almost convinced himself it was just a weird dream, it happens again.
Suddenly, Jack’s ideas about what is “real” or “possible” no longer apply. While he and his new girlfriend, Lucy, struggle to understand who or what the Match Girl is, they come to realize they must also find a way to keep Jack away from her. The Match Girl is not just a sad, lonely soul; she’s dangerous. And each time Jack is drawn into her gray, solitary world, she becomes stronger, more alive…and more attached to Jack.
She wants to keep Jack for her very own, even if that means he will die.
I was very much looking forward to Drawn Away. It has a stunning cover and an interesting concept. Unfortunately, this book was not for me.
I found Klara, Jack, and Lucy all a bit flat as characters. They were written with variety and individual backgrounds and hobbies – Lucy had her year as a homeless teen whereas Jack had his diabetes. Klara was the little Match Girl, and we more or less know her story. However, they did not feel deep. It may have been the length of the chapters (some only a page), but I felt like we really never scratched beneath the surface of any of the characters. All their thoughts and motivations were stated in dialogue. I also found that there were excessive details about irrelevant characters, such as Jack’s mother and Lucy’s uncle.
Bennett does a decent job writing her scenery and world. The most vivid scenes in this book, for myself, were the scene where Lucy sees the little Match Girl floating over the river, and while Jack is at the Halloween Party. The alley where the little Match Girl lives is also quite vivid.
Conceptually speaking, there is nothing wrong with this story – however, I feel like the description of this book was not the clearest. I expected more of a crossover story, where Jack finds himself transported to the fairytale. Closer to the plot, this is the story about a pair of teenagers (Lucy was a complete surprise once I started reading) who see a villainous apparition bent on hijacking one of them to be her friend forever. Personally, I would not have even gone with the Hans Christian Andersen angle – I think this would fit better as paranormal YA fiction than a fairytale retelling.
That said, in its own, it’s a perfectly good story, just not at all what I was expecting.
Bennett’s writing style was not for me. More often than not, it seemed much more rushed and flat than others in its genre. If it was intended for middle grade – ages 8-12 – I think that is would have been better. It would mean that the two characters would be better written a bit younger, but I do think the story would have fit better in that demographic. It is a bit too simple for high school and up, and I’m not sure it will be competitive in that market.
A personal pet peeve – Bennett uses a lot of specific pop culture references. Everything from bands to television shows, this dates the book very quickly. It also isolates certain cultures. The book takes place in Canada, and as such I’m close enough that I understood most of them, but a lot of these references would isolated people elsewhere in the world. As I read an ARC, perhaps some of these specifics changed, but I believe it’s always better to use a generalization than a specific (i.e. “zombie show” vs. “The Walking Dead“) to make it relatable to the maximum amount of people.
Bennett spends a bit of time campaigning for diabetes awareness in this book, which is fine, but we’re never quite certain if it’s part of the story or just part of the character’s life… until it is. According to her Goodreads profile, Bennett works with diabetes spends time working with the Diabetes Research Foundation. I think her work and experience with the foundation definitely drove the direction of this book, which is fine and I think the awareness is great, but at times it seemed like it may derail the plot.
As I said at the beginning of this review, this book was simply not for me. I found my mind wandering often as I read, and I have to admit I skimmed a few pages near the end. I think it could do well in the right audience, but I just wasn’t that audience.
With a couple tweaks this could be a great middle grade book. There are some good scenes, great ideas, but not my cup of tea.
I received this ARC from Orca Book Publishers via a giveaway on LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review.
“The street is completely deserted, except for the girl.”