Review Blog

Jun 18 2018

The 13th Reality: Journal of Curious Letters by James Dashner

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Scholastic, 2018 (First published by Simon and Schuster, 2008). ISBN 9781742994789
(Age: 11+) Highly recommended. Themes: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Truth and Reality, Courage, Quantum Physics, Adventure, STEM. Atticus Higginbottom (nicknamed 'Tick') is not a super-hero type. In fact he is more the kind of 13 year old student who is likely to spend time in his own locker at the 'suggestion' of the school bully and who has a passion for the local library, the pursuit of science and understanding quantum physics. He is also the recipient of a series of strange letters that are both extremely puzzling and also life-altering. These letters demand great intelligence and problem-solving skills and ultimately bravery as they lead Tick into dangerous new territory, alternate realities and, as a side-note, into new friendships. His courage is tested and the world he knows is challenged, twisted and tipped upside-down in amazing ways. Reality itself is tested by technology, new knowledge, new possibilities and possibly even forces of good and evil. Quirky characters abound. Fortunately he has a supportive family to fall back on! (This is in itself a pleasant change from the ultra-independence of many teen YA characters.)
The author James Dashner is perhaps better known for his dystopian speculative fiction, "The Maze Runner", written for a slightly older YA audience. "The Journal of Curious Letters" is infused with humour and a little bit of science and technology, but it is mostly an enthralling, fantasy-quest, adventure written for capable and intelligent young readers. This book was originally released in 2008, before "The Maze Runner", but this Scholastic release should capture a new readership that enjoys reading about young protagonists who are pushed to their limits and overcome adversity using their brainpower. (Readers that have enjoyed Trenton Lee Stewarts' "The Mysterious Benedict Society" series will enjoy this book too.) I will also look forward to reading more in this series and will even enjoy grappling with the concepts of Quantum physics that underpin the idea of alternative realities!
(Note: James Dashner has been embroiled in the #Metoo controversy. Read his and other comments online to inform your own opinion on this issue. Young readers may or may not be aware of the issues, but the book publishing industry is not immune.)
Carolyn Hull

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