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Review: The Book of Nonsense

The Book of Nonsense by David Michael Slater is the first ARC (Advanced Review Copy) I have received, and as such I really wanted to love it so I could write an overly-gushing review. Unfortunately, I didn’t love this book as much as I have enjoyed other young adult fantasy. Although I thought the story was entertaining, I just didn’t connect with the characters very much and therefore wasn’t thrilled with the book.

The Book of Nonsense is the story of 12-year-old twins Dex and Daphna and the events that take place on their thirteenth birthday. The twins mother died when they were babies, and they have been raised by their father and their mother’s friend Latty. The adventure begins when their father returns from a book buying excursion, and Daphna takes him to a rare book store to sell the book. Asterius Rash, the mysterious and quite creepy owner of the store, does something to their father and all chaos breaks loose as the twins try and figure out what is going on. The twins don’t get along, at all, but they need to come together to solve this mystery or face almost certain death.

The rest of the plot, which I won’t go into because of spoilers, is very good. The twists right near the end of the story were unexpected, and the back-up characters were well-described. The book also has a good combination of mental exercise (trying to figure out the mystery along with Daphna and Dex) and action (potential murders, sneaking through dark attics and fighting scary old women with guns). The villains are also really scary!

I think what I wasn’t thrilled about was the main characters–I just didn’t connect with Dex and Daphna. I know they were supposed to be sympathetic and quirky, but I just found them both a little annoying. For example, throughout the book the twins don’t get along, but I never felt like that conflict got developed well. Daphna is an overachiever and Dex isn’t (for good reasons, we find out), but I still never really got why they hated each other, it was like they just did because it makes a good conflict to work from.

In general, I thought this was a pretty good fantasy book, but not one of my favorites ever. It is the first book in a potential five-part series, and there is apparently already talk about movies and book banning as the series gets going. I actually think this book would make a good movie–there would be some space to spin out Dex and Daphna’s relationship more and the dialogue might also get some improvement with a script writer. All in all, pretty good, but not awesome.

Links to Enjoy:

Other Reviews: The Compulsive Reader

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Kathy October 17, 2008, 7:45 pm

    Sorry this didn’t live up to your expectations.

  • Alex October 17, 2008, 8:41 pm


    Funny how different readers react. I shared the book with a number of teens. They loved it for many reasons, but chief among them was the contentious relationship between the teens. They found it totally realistic, and the kids identified with both twins. I’m betting this series, despite being from a very small publisher, is going to be a huge success.

  • Kim October 17, 2008, 8:46 pm

    Kathy: Me too, the premise of the series is really cool, I just wasn’t into it for some reason.

    Alex: Huh, it’s is funny how different people respond to books. It could certainly be an age thing; I’m not that old, but maybe the characters just didn’t resonate with me because of age. I think if the buzz gets going this book will be pretty big — people are looking to fill the fantasy void now that Harry Potter is done.

  • Alex October 17, 2008, 9:11 pm

    Could be really big, I think, but more along the lines — according to the rumors anyway — of the Golden Compass. I posted a review on Amazon, where there is already some gushing going on…

  • Kim October 18, 2008, 3:30 am

    Alex: Yeah, I suppose this book is a little more Golden Compass-esque, a little more deliberative and academic. I haven’t looked for much more info than my review, but I might have to go see the Amazon stuff now.

  • ted October 18, 2008, 7:14 pm

    Go, go, go…just cheering you on.

  • Alex October 19, 2008, 1:31 am

    Re: Golden Compass – someone on Amazon wrote she’d heard that one of the future books features a “crazed version of Adam” from the Garden of Eden. Given the series title “Sacred Books,” I’m guessing it goes into religious territory one way or another. Certainly would explain the publisher’s slogan “Publishing the Banned Books of Tomorrow.” Certainly makes me want to read it : )

  • Alex October 19, 2008, 2:44 pm

    There’s that brief, almost throwaway line in Nonsense that suggests the First Tongue could be the language God used to create the world. Probably not really throwaway at all, I’m thinking.

  • Kim October 19, 2008, 6:21 pm

    ted: Thanks 🙂

    Alex: You know, that makes sense. I couldn’t really figure out what about this particular book was going to incite book banning, but the publisher is probably referring to the series as a whole. And I do remember the line about the First Tounge — good point.

    However, I do find it a little annoying the publisher is using the idea of the books being banned as a marketing scheme — like people should read books just because they are in some way controversial. Meh, seems a little heavy-handed.

  • Alex October 19, 2008, 6:48 pm

    Yes, no doubt it’s partly about marketing. I tend to give it a pass because I suspect it’s a case of a tiny little publisher with probably zero marketing budget trying to compete against the globe-eating conglomerates for any scrap of attention. In which case I say more power to ’em.

  • jess October 20, 2008, 3:46 pm

    I’m familiar with the author here in Portland. He’s a very popular middle school teacher, slogging away in the public schools for over a decade while publishing wonderful but little known (nationally) picture books. He’s been doing free school visits in his district all these years, inspiring thousands of kids with hilarious presentations and a message about following your dreams and never giving up. If someone out there deserves success for deserving books, it’s him. Yes, Blooming Tree is a tiny Texas publisher and will need all the help it can get to sell this wonderful book. That help will be word-of-mouth, and so is my word : )

  • Kim U. October 20, 2008, 4:30 pm

    Alex: True as well.

    jess: That’s cool, I knew Slater had written children’s books, but didn’t know more than that. Word of mouth is a huge way to get readers, so I hope that even though I wasn’t thrilled about the book reviewing it and having good conversation about it will get some other people to pick it up themselves. Last time I looked the book was sold out on Amazon, so I think that’s a good sign 🙂