Review: The Spindlers by Lauren Oliver

One night when Liza went to bed, Patrick was her chubby, stubby, candy-grubbing and pancake-loving younger brother, who irritated and amused her both, and the next morning, when she woke up, he was not. In fact, he was quite, quite different.

When Liza’s brother, Patrick, changes overnight, Liza knows exactly what has happened: The spindlers have gotten to him and stolen his soul.

She knows, too, that she is the only one who can save him.

To rescue Patrick, Liza must go Below, armed with little more than her wits and a broom. There, she uncovers a vast world populated with talking rats, music-loving moles, greedy troglods, and overexcitable nids . . . as well as terrible dangers. But she will face her greatest challenge at the spindlers’ nests, where she encounters the evil queen and must pass a series of deadly tests–or else her soul, too, will remain Below forever.

From New York Times best-selling author Lauren Oliver comes a bewitching story about the reaches of loyalty, the meaning of love, and the enduring power of hope. 

___________________________________

Though it pains me to admit it, I didn’t find a lot to love about Lauren Oliver’s The Spindlers. I’ve read a couple of her YA novels and loved them both (Before I Fall is an absolute favorite!), but I found this middle grade offering sadly lacking.

I love the description of this novel, but, after reading it, I don’t find it particularly fitting to the text itself. It isn’t the content itself that isn’t fitting, but the fact that the summary makes the The Spindlers sound much more exciting than it actually is. First off, the summary mentions literally everything readers will find within the covers of the novel – where’s the fun in that!? Secondly, the “evil queen” and her “series of deadly tests” are mentioned and made to sound, in addition to sinister, pretty darn exciting. Alas, this didn’t turn out to be true. 

Yes, this novel is clearly intended for a middle grade audience, but I found myself entirely too bored as Liza encountered, and easily defeated, each obstacle that stood between herself and her brother, and I can’t help but worry the intended audience will feel the same. I felt like the novel was  good start, but that much more could have been added. It almost felt like it was too tame… I just wanted more.

Though I did find some of the inhabitants of Below rather interesting, I was unfavorably distracted by the rat that serves as Liza guide on her quest to rescue Patrick. This rat tries very hard to be human-like, as this is what she regards as attractive, but Liza is constantly thinking of how horrible the creature looks. In the end, the rat embraces her natural form and sheds her makeup and clothes, prompting Liza to remark on how great she looks. I assume this character’s purpose is to send the message that being natural and true to yourself is beautiful, but I wasn’t a fan of how the message was executed. Liza’s frequent negative remarks were off-putting and sometimes felt like she was being a bit of mean.

The Spindlers wasn’t my favorite middle grade novel, but it definitely won’t stop me from reading more YA and MG offerings from Lauren Oliver. I had some definite issues with this particular book, but Oliver is a strong writer and it’s entirely possible this one just wasn’t for me.

HarperCollins, September 2012, Hardcover, ISBN: 9780061978081, 256 pages.
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