60. Dragonfly by Frederic S. Durbin
Publication: Ace (September 27, 2005) originally published 1999, Paperback, 336pp / ISBN 0441013384
Genre: Fantasy, Horror
Read: March 8-9, 2010
Summary from Amazon:
A young girl is drawn into the strange, spooky underworld in the basement of her uncle’s funeral parlor.
Somehow I heard about this book, I think in a recommendations list for books with kids having adventures in fantasy lands that exist in a sort of side-slipped reality to ours. That’s exactly what Dragonfly is, and while I normally enjoy books like that, I didn’t entirely enjoy Dragonfly.
I didn’t dislike it. But it’s definitely not a YA book like I thought it was. I think that was the fault of wrong categorization somewhere, so don’t go assuming it’s like Artemis Fowl or anything like that. It’s more like The Book of Lost Things, if you’ve read that– it’s a kid getting into adult situations, with life and death hanging on a precarious balance and morally corrupt people running around everywhere causing trouble. It disturbed me multiple times, Dragonfly, not least because Dragonfly falls in love with a werewolf who a) kills people and eats them and b) is enchanting her into staying with him anyway while he siphons off her dreams. So in lieu of eating her flesh he eats her soul, basically.
That does not sound like a happy-go-lucky romance to me, and in fact it never actually seemed that Dragonfly was really in love with that werewolf. She was being enchanted! But everyone acts like it was this great thing, even the people that should no better, and that rubbed me the wrong way. Dragonfly’s constant crying and feeling sorry for herself rubbed me the wrong way, too. It was annoying, especially since se never seemed to do anything except get into more trouble. I suppose it was more realistic, because she was, after all, ten, and how good at being a hero can a ten year old be, really? But she was down there for several months, which was more than enough time to learn a new skill set, and she never acted like a ten year old anyway. It was just weird.
Anyway, that was basically my main problem(s) with Dragonfly. Everything else was fine. Heck, everything else was fantastic! I loved how creepy it was, and how it melded together several mythologies and urban myths, and made it all scary. It was more of a Halloweentown than Halloweentown was, and that was great. I think if Dragonfly had been a different sort of person I would have liked the book better, but as it is now I think I’m just mostly torn between loving the creepy and hating the rest, and I think that’s because I went in expecting one thing and getting another.
YA books shouldn’t be as creepy as this one, and because I was expecting a YA book it threw me for a loop. If I had been expecting an adult horror/fantasy book starring a kid, I would have been better prepared and might have even liked it more. Maybe. Probably? Who knows.
This post brings up some interesting points about Durbin’s writing. It’s very strange in some parts, and it doesn’t help the ten-year-old sound anything like a ten-year-old. What ten-year-old says stuff like “when the chuckle-dark harvest moon shaped pumpkins in its own image,” anyway? Some people like stuff like that– even I go for it sometimes– but not when the narrator is so young. I think I’d go for realism over style, then.