When a book surprises you it's always a good thing. With "Verdigris Deep" I never knew what to expect, what was coming next. The whole idea of the story is original in itself: three kids steal some coins from a wishing well and find themselves trapped in a curse that oblige them to fulfil the wishes of the people who threw those coins. Hardinge manages to develop the idea and explore it in ways that i woud have never thought of.
The best definition for it would be "supernatural thriller for children, with a hint of horror in the mix". The back cover of my proof copy recommends the book to 9+ years old. But I would have been scared to death if I read this when I was 9, and would have had nightmares for weeks. Nightmares involving a terrifying witch with fountain eyes, wart eyes on my hands, creepy old women that try to kill me and my best friend that turns into a killer maniac.
But I know that kids like to get scared and face their fears so this book should definitely be a hit.
The whole story seems to depict a very unwelcoming and hostile world for the kids as well as for the adults, even before the curse. Ryan and Chelle are two shy and bullied kids. Ryan's parents are always fighting, his father barely notices him, while his mother seems to be obsessed with appearance and with ruining famous people's lives. Chelle talks too much and not even her friends listen to her ramblings. Josh is their hero, but as the story unravels we learn that even he has problems he can't talk about.
How will the three of them deal with the curse that has fallen upon them? At first they act as a group, enjoying their new "super powers" and feeling like angels, fulfilling people's dreams. But in this story nothing is what it seems and everything has a double side. Friends can turn into enemies, enemies can turn into friends and dreams can turn into nightmares.
So for once, I wasn't disappointed by the great premises, maybe because there weren't any, not knowing what the writer was capable of. I had few problems here and there understanding what was going on because of the peculiar way of the author to describe things and actions. But this is only maybe a consequence of her inventiveness. Weird ideas need weird writing style. And you don't usually find much creativity in children's writing.
I'm looking forward to reading her previous and first work, hoping it'll be as good and this one.
other blog reviews:
Fields of Gold