Saturday, August 20, 2011

Review - Groosham Grange by Anthony Horowitz

Thirteen-year-old David Eliot was a disappointment to his parents. But to be sent to Groosham Grange? Hidden away on a lonely island, Groosham Grange is a school that is unknown to the outside world. Pupils forced to sign their names in blood. An English teacher held together entirely with bandages. A soccer ball made of . . . well, you'd rather not know. What is the chilling secret hidden behind the headmaster's door? And why are students disappearing in the middle of the night? Suddenly, David has a lot more to worry about than pleasing his parents - like survival!
I really didn't know what to expect from Groosham Grange. I've read a lot of books by Anthony Horowitz--all but one book from the Alex Rider series, the whole Gatekeepers series, and the first of the Diamond Brothers Mysteries--but this one was different. I hadn't heard anything about it before I bought it, and only got it because it's by Anthony Horowitz, an author I'd previously had good luck with. What I got from Groosham Grange... well, I'm still trying to make my mind up on it.

Almost from the beginning, Groosham Grange seemed to me like a warped version of Harry Potter, but with more evil. The main character, David, had parents worse than the Dursleys, a mysterious letter arrived from a mysterious school, and he was sent off. He met his two friends on the train there, Jill (who ended up sounding like a young Hermione from the movies, no matter how much I tried to make her sound different) and Jeffrey (who sounded like Dudley when he said "I-I'm not Harry" in the movie). That was about where the similarities ended... or so I thought. In the end, I think it was more of an evil Harry Potter than I'd first thought.

The book had a really strange sense of humor throughout, the kind that throws you off so much you forget to laugh. At least, that's how it was with me. I recognized the jokes, thought somewhere in the back of my mind that they were funny, but I don't think I ever laughed while reading this. It was just so weird. By any other author, I probably would have just read it and not thought anything was strange about it. But since I've been such a big fan of Anthony Horowitz for so long (pretty sure he's the first YA author I read), it was kind of like finding out a friend you thought you knew liked taxidermy or something. Not bad, just really unexpected and a bit odd.

In the end, I liked it. Strange as it was, it was good, though not one of Anthony Horowitz's best books. I'm really surprised by how much I liked it, because I'm pretty sure it was originally released in the late 80s (that's the oldest edition I could find on Goodreads), and I don't usually like books written before 2002-ish (even that's a bit of a stretch). And yet, I'm not surprised I liked it despite its age, because you couldn't even tell how old it was while reading. I might read the sequel, if I can ever find it (I don't think I've ever seen it).

I recommend this to readers 13 and up (it says 10 and up on the back, but I don't really think that's right), and anyone looking for a quick, entertaining read, and doesn't mind if it's a little weird.

I give Groosham Grange 3 octopuses.

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