The Real Boy by Anne Ursu
Walden Pond Press (September 24, 2013) 352 pages
The Real Boy, Anne Ursu’s follow-up to her widely acclaimed and beloved middle-grade fantasy Breadcrumbs, is an unforgettable story of magic, faith, and friendship.
On an island on the edge of an immense sea there is a city, a forest, and a boy named Oscar. Oscar is a shop boy for the most powerful magician in the village, and spends his days in a small room in the dark cellar of his master’s shop grinding herbs and dreaming of the wizards who once lived on the island generations ago. Oscar’s world is small, but he likes it that way. The real world is vast, strange, and unpredictable. And Oscar does not quite fit in it.
But now that world is changing. Children in the city are falling ill, and something sinister lurks in the forest. Oscar has long been content to stay in his small room in the cellar, comforted in the knowledge that the magic that flows from the forest will keep his island safe. Now, even magic may not be enough to save it.
My Rating: 5/5 stars
It is with great excitement that I announce the newest addition to my “hug-worthy” shelf! It’s a rare event, just so you know!
Oscar is odd. He knows he’s not quite like all the other children. He doesn’t know what to say, and he questions what he does say. He has an extraordinarily difficult time looking people in the eyes. He often feels the urge to hide away from the world. He won my heart! Completely! I find tears in my eyes at random moments just thinking about how much Oscar was like the child version of myself(and even a great deal like my adult self). The tears have flowed just writing this post, and I applaud the author for writing such an amazing book! Oscar is such a special character to me now! I imagine even those of you who don’t connect with him so much will find tears in your eyes, too. I read an e-ARC, but Lord willing, this book will be added to my shelf in real form soon.
As I kept reading The Real Boy, I thought the author was writing Oscar to be a child suffering from social phobia. It was only through another reviewer stating so, that I realized Oscar actually has Aspergers Syndrome. If you know the symptoms of social phobia and that form of autism, you know many of them kind of mesh together. There were a couple of issues Oscar had that I didn’t completely connect with now, but I did more so as a child. She writes his issues in so subtly that you might not even realize what she’s done. What she’s done, though, is created a beautiful, magical story that will connect all the “odd” kids of the world. She lets them know they’re not alone, and I wish so desperately that I’d read a book like this when I was a child. To know I wasn’t the only child so “different” would have been such an encouragement. It would have been great to know as I heard other kids talking about how “weird” I was when they thought I couldn’t hear them.
Despite Oscar’s issues, he’s smart, and fills his mind with book knowledge. I love that the author gave him such a wonderful, understanding friend for his journey. She was gentle, but at the same time stern when the need called for it. Every “odd” child deserves such a friend! They do exist!
The Real Boy is a mysterious little story, with unexpected twists and turns. Secrets are slowly revealed, and even then I wasn’t always sure what to do with my new knowledge. It’s dark and so very emotional. It’s one of those books that I really can’t say too much about without giving away a secret. I will say that it is a loose re-telling, with a unique little twist.
I wouldn’t consider this an easy read. I’d say it’s for a mature reader in its target age group. I found myself confused at times, and I’d have to re-read certain parts at an attempt to see what didn’t connect in my mind. Even the ending is left somewhat open, and there’s plenty you’re left with to fill in the blanks. I’m hoping this means a sequel, even though I’m not really expecting one.
I have Breadcrumbs on my shelf, and now I’m looking forward to devouring it, too. In case you can’t tell, I highly recommend this for all adults, and mature middle grade readers. It’s wonderful and I simply can’t thank the author enough for adding it to the world of fiction!
*I was provided an e-ARC through Edelweiss for review.