01 January 2015

Far Far Away

Author: Tom McNeal
Rating: 2.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

In a small town where nothing ever happens, everything is about to change.

The first word that comes to mind when I think of Far Far Away is strange.  For starters, the novel is narrated by a ghost.  A ghost who just happens to be one of the original Brothers Grimm.  Secondly, the tagline for the novel is a bit misleading.  After all, the green smoke pouring out of the baker's chimney on delicious pastry days can hardly be called nothing.  And our main character, Jeremy Johnson Johnson (no, that is not a typo), is hardly boring.  After all, he has a mega depressed father who hardly leaves the house, and is owner of his late grandfather's book store, which only contains two books, which are not for sale.

As Jeremy Johnson Johnson owns a book store that doesn't sell books, and his father hardly works, it is not a stretch to believe that they are heading for financial ruin, with the fate of Jeremy Johnson Johnson's inherited bookstore on the line.  And thus, with the help of his ghostly sidekick, he decides he will try out for a game show called Uncommon Knowledge, which is an exact ripoff of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, to try to earn the money to pay the loan on the bookstore before it's repossessed, which would not only crush his heart but make him homeless as well.

So I find it hard to agree that nothing ever happens in Jeremy's small town, but I will say that the plot is extremely slow to start, and thus for the reader, it does feel as if nothing of consequence is happening until very late in the game, which can make this novel a bit of a drag to get through.  Indeed, Far Far Away took me almost a month to read, as I had a lot more interesting books that I was reading simultaneously that I preferred.  The lack of chapters or even parts to this novel irked me for this reason, as it seemed I could never find a good place to stop, which made it hard to start reading to begin with.

Once the plot finally got moving (about three quarters of the way in), the pace of the story did pick up a bit.  Then my issue with the novel became that the plot was predictable.  While some readers have commented they found the story suspenseful, I found it following a rather generic model, where I pretty much guessed the ending.  Combine all these elements into one story, and it wasn't my cup of tea.  I can see how readers think McNeal was trying to spin a classical Grimm brothers story in a modern time, but if so, I don't think he accomplished what he set out to do.  The ending certainly doesn't feel like the ending of a Brothers Grimm tale.

Perhaps I am just a little too much older than the target audience for this novel.  I can see how younger kids could enjoy this story, as the characters are likable enough.  There is a hint of young, youthful romance, and it has just a dash of suspense without being too terrifying to ward off the younger readers.  Personally, though, I found the plot lacking, and though I did finally make my way all the way through, I won't be picking up this novel again.

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