Far Far Away

by Tom McNeal

The benevolent spirit of Jacob Grimm has haunted teenager Jeremy Johnson Johnson... read more

The benevolent spirit of Jacob Grimm has haunted teenager Jeremy Johnson Johnson since he was a child. Jeremy lives in the small American heartland town of Never Better, and the ghost has provided far more support and guidance across the years than the boy's depressed, reclusive father. A loner by circumstance (no one wants to befriend the kid who hears a voice in his head), Jeremy is shocked but pleased when classmate Ginger Boultinghouse invites him to the bakery for cake. Later, Jeremy is quick to agree when Ginger asks him to participate in a harmless prank against the well-liked baker. Jeremy is caught by the seemingly vindictive Deputy McRaven but doesn't rat on Ginger, and a friendship blossoms. In a town quick to judge, Jeremy has finally found a real friend. But there is malevolence in the air. Jacob, the novel's narrator, senses it but doesn't know the source, although Deputy McRaven seems a likely candidate. By the time Jacob realizes his mistake, both Jeremy's and Ginger's lives are in peril. Never Better feels like the gingerbread house in the forest, and Tom McNeal lulls readers into a false sense of ease, despite Jacob's repeated warnings, before revealing danger inside. He uses fairy tale archetypes and patterns that add texture and depth to what could be a contemporary news story of a deranged criminal. The gruesomeness is largely psychological or implied, and is always counterbalanced by Jacob's presence, as his genuine concern for Jeremy and others is never in doubt in a novel in which many of the characters reveal unexpected depth. (Age 14 and older)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2014

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