My brother Robbie (16) and I are sitting side by side, but we’re pretending to be oceans apart, chatting about M.E. Breen’s Darkwood. I’ll be in England.
Robbie: I’ll be somewhere in the Artic Circle. With my pet polar bear and black wolves.
Noel: Alright then. Darkwood. Where would you like to start?
Noel: Okay. What about them?
Robbie: They’re slightly freaky. No, don’t write that. (The polar bear is transcribing now. a.k.a. Robbie got tired of passing the laptop.) Kinderstalk are mysterious creatures that prowl the dark forest.
Noel: Um, that’s from the product description, isn’t it?
Robbie: I left out “Howland’s” dark forest. They seem very fairy-tale-ish, if that’s a word. And the fact that they—
Robbie: Oh, sorry. You write some stuff now. (Note to polar bear: you don’t have to take down everything I say.)
Noel: Well, I felt like Darkwood was a very plot-driven story. Our heroine, Annie, is moved from place to place, event to event, and there aren’t many monotonous passages. Do you agree?
Robbie: Yeah, I definitely think it was a fast read, and it kept your attention. You wanted to read more.
Noel: Was there ever a point that you were confused, didn’t understand what was going on?
Robbie: I think that there were a few parts I couldn’t grasp, but if I went back and read it again, I could figure it out. The author had you figure some things out on your own, instead of spelling everything out. Makes the reader feel smart, I think, when they can figure something out. And the typeset is really cool, too.
Noel: What did you think of Annie’s cats?
Robbie: I thought it was kind of weird that they knew everything she needed. But at the end it came together—they had been sent as protectors. I’d never really thought of cats as that intelligent.
Noel: Yeah, well, Rillian [our current puss] mainly sits on the boat cover. So I can see how that would throw you off. What was your favorite thing about Darkwood?
Robbie: I liked how the events of the story were woven into the characters’ past and future. Everything fell into place nicely. Do think it was a little unrealistic how the humans could communicate with the Kinderstalk in wolf-language?
Noel: I don’t know. I guess it would look/sound funny if you saw a human snarling and grunting to an animal, but in the context of the story… well, they needed communication. And if Doctor Doolittle could do it… (I refer solely to the literary Doctor. Banish images of Eddie Murphy from your mind.)
Robbie: Well, I have to go fish some people out of the frigid waves.
Noel: (Actually, our Dad needed his help.) I guess that’s it, then. Goodnight, Chicago!