Review Detail

Middle Grade Fiction 157
Problems must be given names to solve them.
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
What worked:
Dealing with grief is a major topic in this book. Reggie deeply misses his father who died two years prior. His mother is devastated to the point that she’s feeling paranoid and won’t leave the apartment. Reggie has many fond memories of his father and often relives them in his mind. His sadness is accompanied by anger toward his mother since he feels forced to cope with his heartache alone. However, he later learns that appearances can’t reveal what others are experiencing and perhaps he’s not as alone as he thinks.
Reggie teams up with his “mortal enemy” Gareth and a girl named Chantal to figure out why the Conductor lures kids onto a subway train using false promises. Reggie has had fights with Gareth at school since second grade, and Gareth’s constant teasing is infuriating. Reggie’s temper makes the problem worse, so trying to work together to uncover the Conductor’s secrets is a struggle. Chantal has been seeing a psychiatrist since her twin sister died, and she offers some of the doctor’s advice as the team learns to face their problems. Readers may use those same suggestions in their own lives. All three characters learn that communication goes a long way toward identifying their issues and gaining the support needed to overcome them.
The world created by the author is imaginative but maintains connections to real life. The Conductor wields a magic flute that may remind readers of an old fairy tale, but the spells he casts are surely impossible. He commands an army of ravenous rats that project an air of danger within the underground Darkness. The Darkness itself is treated as another character with feelings and intentions, as the kids fear its presence. Reggie, Gareth, and Chantal encounter seemingly familiar settings only to find the images are illusions. The composition of the background scenery is a surprise, but a small bug and a balloon become unexpected allies.
What didn’t work as well:
The main characters are interesting, but not especially memorable. Their problems and issues are serious and relatable to young readers, but the characters themselves are quite average. Nevertheless, the creative story and comradery of the characters make this book entertaining.
The Final Verdict:
Problems must be given names to solve them. The fanciful story addresses serious, real-life issues including the many faces of grief. Readers will enjoy the characters’ efforts to stop the Conductor as the plot builds to an exciting climax.
Report this review Was this review helpful? 0 0


Already have an account? or Create an account