Earlier in October, I read Jessica Townsend’s Nevermoor and I really enjoyed it. Middle-grade can be a hit or miss with me and to be fair I haven’t read much of the genre as an adult. This was refreshingly inventive, and though it is meant for a younger audience, I never felt it talking down or being overly simplistic. It’s wonderfully written striking the perfect balance between being imaginative, absorbing, comical and just a tad scary with a very relatable child protagonist.
The main criticism, I’ve seen of this book is that it’s too similar to Harry Potter and I disagree. It certainly felt reminiscent, especially in the first quarter of the book, but then it takes off and I felt it was completely original in its own way. And really, to be fair, a young lonely child being whisked off to a magical school/far off land with a powerful villain, really can’t be attributed to just Harry Potter. That basic formula is fodder for so many fantasy series out there. What each author does in creating worlds, magic systems, characters and plot intricacies is the defining factor that distinguishes each and that respect, this was very unique.
One thing I really appreciated in Nevermoor is that it doesn’t shy away from slightly difficult topics. The opening scene of this book is a child’s funeral, which some might find inappropriate in middle grade. But I think we underestimate a child’s emotional capacity to understand death and topics like that. Morrigan, our young girl protagonist is a wonderful character, fully realized, relatable, quirky and honest. She is a cursed child, meant to die on her 11th birthday, but she is whisked into Nevermoor by Jupiter North, a patron of sorts, just in time to escape her fate. Morrigan then endures through certain competitive trials to try and be accepted into the Wondrous Society, an elite magical society. That’s is the basic plot, oversimplified, of course.
This is the first book in what I believe is a 9 book series, so it is a set-up novel. There are so many different ways the story could go from here, so much of the history and what happened, the backstories etc. are yet to be explored. So I really hope Jessica Townsend manages to keep the momentum in her later books. I’ve already been speculating what could happen in the next and I can’t wait to dive in.
PS: The Christmas chapter in this book, is possibly the best Christmas-related scene I’ve ever read!
PPS: The UK edition is the one I got, and you can just feast your eyes on that naked hardback design. I just love children’s book illustrators. They know their craft!