The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

February 6, 2009

Book review: Retelling proves to be a ‘Wicked’ read


‘Something Wicked: A Horatio Wilkes Mystery’

By Alan Gratz

“Something Wicked” is a very clever retelling of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.”

Our hero and sleuth, Horatio Wilkes, is headed up Birnam Mountain with his childhood friend, Mac, Mac’s detestable girlfriend, Beth, and Mac’s dorky kilt-wearing cousin, Banks, to take part in the Scottish Fair held there every year. Before ascending, the four teens stop at a psychic’s shop in the seedy town at the base of the mountain for a palm reading. The psychic tells Mac that even though he didn’t make his clan’s team for the Highland Games, he will compete in them and win — Mac will be crowned King of the Mountain. Of course, our logically thinking Horatio does not believe in the psychic’s predictions, but the weekend’s events may change his mind.

The festival full of kilts, bagpipes and strong men throwing telephone poles for fun cannot begin until Duncan MacRae, Mac’s grandfather, owner of Birnam Mountain and founder of the Scottish Fair, lights the bonfire at the opening ceremony. Of course, when the time comes, no one can find Duncan. Horatio is sent looking for him in the campground and finds Duncan murdered in one of Mac’s family tents. All signs and the literal writing on the wall points to Malcolm, Duncan’s son, as the murderer, but Horatio isn’t convinced of Malcolm’s guilt.

Horatio is especially suspicious since, having been appointed to his clan’s Highland Games team and now the sole heir to Birnam Mountain, Mac has been increasingly interested in all developments regarding his grandfather’s murder, but seems unaffected by his actual death. Beth also begins acting strange after Duncan is murdered. When once she was antagonistic towards Horatio, she seems too distracted and nervous to hate Horatio with the same passion she had before. Could Mac and Beth known more than they should about Duncan’s murder?

With some minor sexual content, this book is appropriate for teens and adults. Horatio is a likable character that most boys will identify with, making this book an especially good “guy” book.

For a retelling of “Hamlet,” check out Gratz’s “Something Rotten.”

‘The Latent Powers of Dylan Fontaine’

By April Lurie

“The Latent Powers of Dylan Fontaine” is one of those middle-of-the-story books.

It starts in the midst of crisis — Dylan’s mom left his dad (and her two sons) for her art teacher; Randy, Dylan’s brother and the one person Dylan looks up to, seems to be throwing his life away by spending too much time with his band, The Dead Musicians Society, and smoking massive amounts of pot; Angie, Dylan’s best friend and the love of his life, is dating a loser named Jonathan; and Dylan’s doctor dad prefers to avoid all things “real life” by staying insanely busy with his OB/GYN patients at the hospital.

It’s not until Angie comes back around —the loser turned out to be a jerk, too — and decides to cast Dylan as the main character in a film she’s doing for a summer project at NYU that his life begins to change. Through Angie’s film, Dylan begins to find his own voice in the chaos. He learns to take risks and step out of the shadow of his older brother while learning that he doesn’t have to take care of everyone around him. It’s a drama-filled ride for Dylan, though. His house sees several visits from the police (noise complaints, marijuana suspicion and a stolen golf cart), Angie’s loser/jerk of an ex-boyfriend comes back into the picture, and Dylan is forced to deal with his anger toward his parents.

Funny and true-to-life, “The Latent Powers of Dylan Fontaine” is appropriate for teens and adults looking for a light story about discovering who you are.

Cari Boatright Rérat is the teen librarian at Joplin Public Library.