Author: Lauren Oliver
Genre: middle-grade, supernatural
Pages: 256 (Nook ARC edition)
Published: expected October 2 2012
Source: publishers via edelweiss
One night when Liza went to bed, Patrick was her chubby, stubby, candy-grubbing and pancake-loving younger brother, who irritated and amused her both, and the next morning, when she woke up, he was not. In fact, he was quite, quite different.
When Liza’s brother, Patrick, changes overnight, Liza knows exactly what has happened: The spindlers have gotten to him and stolen his soul.
She knows, too, that she is the only one who can save him.
To rescue Patrick, Liza must go Below, armed with little more than her wits and a broom. There, she uncovers a vast world populated with talking rats, music-loving moles, greedy troglods, and overexcitable nids . . . as well as terrible dangers. But she will face her greatest challenge at the spindlers’ nests, where she encounters the evil queen and must pass a series of deadly tests—or else her soul, too, will remain Below forever.
From New York Times best-selling author Lauren Oliver comes a bewitching story about the reaches of loyalty, the meaning of love, and the enduring power of hope.
Lauren Oliver is a truly talented writer, be it in the young-adult field, or when writing for a younger audience, like here in The Spindlers. I was impressed with Before I Fall, and I am even more so after reading this richly imaginative, darkly creepy, and thoroughly lovely middle-grade novel. I'm in my twenties and I loved every page - I can't imagine what this book would have meant to me had I read it when I was at the age of the intended audience. It's wonderful, magical, creepy adventure all about the power of love, family, hope, and believing in yourself. It's a quick read, but the beauty of Oliver's prose and her feisty main character Liza will leave a lasting impression long after the book is finished.
The Spindlers is a highly imaginative novel with echoes of some beloved favorites - Labyrinth (the abduction of a loved/hated younger brother), Alice in Wonderland (a hidden magical world Below filled with anthropomorphic animals), and Coraline (the dark, sinister aspect of a lot of what Liza uncovers.) Despite being vaguely reminiscent of those loved novels, Oliver's The Spindlers is a unique adventure filled with both wonder and magic. This charming tale of a young girl who uses stories and her vivid imagination to escape her tension-filled house (the casual hints of money problems at home - the overdue bills and shout-off notices, the broken plates and furniture, her mother's constant worry and pacing) is filled with creative new spins on monsters, what it means to be a friend, and the fun of seeing what weirdly beautiful creations Oliver can come up with next.
The illustrations are few - at least in the ARC edition that I was granted - but they are both lovely and easily capture the feel of what Oliver creates with her words. I fell in love with how this author writes because of this book. I loved Before I Fall, but The Spindlers is truly engrossing and immersive, and a lot of that is down to how well Oliver can spin a tale. This fable-like story is imaginative, interesting, and above all, entirely fun and over too soon. I highly recommend this to anyone searching out a quick but moving read. My favorite quotes from the novel:
"The spindlers had gotten him: they had dropped down from the ceiling on their glistening webs of shadowed darkness and dropped their silken threads in his ear, and extracted is soul slowly, like a fisherman coaxing a trout from the water on a taut nylon fishing line. In its place they deposited their eggs; then they withdrew to their shadowed, dark corners and their underground lairs with his soul bound closely in silver thread."
"The world is a freak, she should have said. Everything that happens in it is strange and beautiful."
"This was what her parents did not understand - and had never understood - about stories. Liza told herself as though she was weaving and knotting an endless rope. Then, no matter how dark or terrible the pit she found herself in, she could pull herself out, inch by inch and hand over hand, on the long rope of stories."
"Liza stared at her. 'Impossible.'
Mirabella swept her tail around her wrist and gave an imperious sniff. 'That is a human word,' she sad. 'And a very ugly one at that. We have no use for it Below.'"
"Liza felt she now knew many things she had not known yesterday. She knew, for example, that even rats could be beautiful, and hope grew from the smallest seeds, and sometimes there was great truth in made-up stories."
This is an absolutely wonderful middle grade novel, one that holds vast appeal for older readers no matter what their age. Lauren Oliver is a wonderful storyteller and she proves it once again here, with a unique way with words that can evoke pathos as easily as breathing. I was caught up in this story, anxious and excited to see what new ideas and creatures this able author would throw my way. From nids to troglods to the nocturni, this is a world alive with promise and horror, and all the more unique for it.