Utopia, Iowa

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3.7 (2)
 
0.0 (0)
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Utopia, Iowa
Author(s)
Genre(s)
Age Range
12+
Release Date
February 10, 2015
ISBN
978-0763665333
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Jack Bell has an unusual gift—or curse, depending on your point of view. And he’s not the only one. In Utopia, Iowa, anything can happen. For the most part, aspiring screenwriter Jack Bell is just your typical Midwestern kid. He’s got a crush on his hot best friend, Ash. He’s coping with a sudden frostiness between his once crazy-in-love parents. He’s debating where to go to college next year—or whether to go at all. But then there’s his gift (or curse): Jack can see dead people, just like the kid in The Sixth Sense. Lately, the ghosts are more distracting than usual, demanding that Jack get to the bottom of their mysterious deaths—all while avoiding the straitlaced Detective Bloodsmith, who doesn’t believe in gifts or curses and can’t help wondering why Jack keeps turning up at crime scenes. Is there a happily-ever-after in Jack’s future, or is that only the stuff of movies?

Editor reviews

2 reviews

He sees dead people
Overall rating 
 
4.3
Plot 
 
4.0
Characters 
 
5.0
Writing Style 
 
4.0
Jack Bell wants to write screen plays for movies, but he doesn't necessarily want to leave his small hometown. Home to a college of magic, and filled with people with a variety of magical talents, Utopia is the place where Jack feels most comfortable. When a college girl is killed and appears to Jack (since he can see ghosts), he gets drawn into the investigation. Detective Bloodsmith is a big suspicious of Jack, especially after a girl from his school is also killed, and Jack was the last person she called. Jack keeps having weird dreams, and his gradmother, who is a which, tries to help him out until she has a stroke. Or is it a stroke? An age old, evil goddess seems to be on the loose, and the girls may have been targeted. Mix in drama with Brian's friend, Ash, in whom he is slightly romantically interested, drama with Jack's parents, who love each other but fight over money, and unknown evil that may strike again, and Brian has a lot to keep him busy!

The small town setting on this is quite fun, and the side story with Brian's father running the unsuccessful bar, Field of Dreams, was interesting. Most books set in small towns concentrate on people wanting to leave, so it was refreshing that Jack wanted to stay. His relationship with Ash seemed realistic, and I appreciated how the police did suspect him when he kept turning up at the sites of murders. In most books, the detectives are rather ignored, which seems unlikely. In the end, there are some twists about the murders, both with real characters and the paranormal ones.

My only quibble with the book was that I could not buy into Jack's desire to write screen plays. The only hints we have that he is interested in movies are his brief descriptions of movies and screen play ideas throughout the book as they relate to situations, which get a bit annoying. There is one f-bomb, in a screenplay description.
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Utopia, Iowa
(Updated: January 30, 2015)
Overall rating 
 
3.0
Plot 
 
3.0
Characters 
 
3.0
Writing Style 
 
3.0
What worked: This is a quirky tale set in an equally quirky town where most of the residents have some kind of paranormal ability. Reminded me of a TV series I really loved back in the 90s--Eerie, Indiana. Only in Utopia, Iowa the protagonist is a teen boy who sees dead people.

The characters are interesting enough--Jack's banter with his best friend Ash are hilarious at times. Jack's family is quirky too and are supportive even his Gram who I know I wouldn't want to have on my bad side or else she'd visit my dreams! His father has big dreams too with a bar that doesn't seem to be profitable, a younger sister who loves old sitcoms, and a number of other equally colorful characters add to the charm of this paranormal tale. Plus, thow in a murder mystery to the mix for a fun read.

What I had issues with was how abrupt some of the writing felt. The movie trivia felt forced and jarred me out of an otherwise fun paranormal. I know that the movie references(and there are a lot) shows readers Jack's desire to be a screenwriter. Still, I felt that less would have been more with this story line.

Finally, I'm a huge sucker for ghost tales and I wanted more interactions with the dead and more emotion feels. For example, I loved the interactions between Jack and Ash. She's colorful enough and readers can feel the chemistry between them. Also it was refreshing to have a family that loved each other even with their disagreements(like Jack's mother not too happy with his father's bar venture).

A quirky visit to a quirky town where paranormal is the norm, this tale is sure to be perfect for those who love a fun ghost tale.
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