Sunday, 30 March 2014

Review: The Finisher by David Baldacci

One of Scholastic's front list titles for spring 2014 is bestselling author David Baldacci's YA novel, The Finisher. Aimed at readers ages 10-14, this is an exciting fantasy/adventure story about a young girl who lives in a mysterious place called Wormwood. This is Baldacci's first YA novel, and my first Baldacci novel.

Summary: Why would Quentin Herms flee into the Quag? There was nothing in the Quag except certain death.
Vega Jane has never left the village of Wormwood. But this isn't unusual — nobody has ever left the village of Wormwood. At least not until Quentin Herms vanishes into the unknown.
Vega knows Quentin didn't just leave — he was chased. And he's left behind a very dangerous trail of clues that only she can decode.
The Quag is a dark forest filled with terrifying beasts and bloodthirsty Outliers. But just as deadly are the threats that exist within the walls of Wormwood. It is a place built on lies, where influential people are willing to kill to keep their secrets. Vega is determined to uncover the truth — but the closer she gets, the more she risks her life.
Vega Jane is yet another strong and confident YA heroine, demonstrating that she has the skills, smarts, and capabilities to survive and thrive in a male-dominated society. At one point, Vega is forced to enter a tournament and physically fight against men for a prize (and her freedom). Vega uses her brain and her strength to overcome her opponents and prove herself worthy of being someone we can root for. She comes up against terrifying monsters, dark secrets, and faces people who will kill anyone to protect the secrets of Wormwood. She is a formidable force for someone so young — and for being a female, as she is so often reminded.

Few authors could construct a world like this and make it so compelling. At times it is as fantastical and breathtaking as Lewis Carroll's Wonderland. The odd language, particularly the names of the monsters (ie. Jabbits) made Wormwood lightly reminiscent of Wonderland. The language is sometimes a little hard to get used to, but the repetition of the terms makes the text easy to understand.
Sliver = a moment          Sessions = years          Light = morning

The book is a little daunting at just over 500 pages, and the story is fairly complex. A lot happens in the story, so an attentive reader is a must. David Baldacci brings his exquisite use of language and storytelling abilities to this middle grade book. Although the target audience is 10-14, I'd say the book skews toward an advanced reader ages 12-14.

Overall, I enjoyed the story, but the grandeur of the story arc slowed down my usual reading pace as there was so much detail to take in. Fans of James Patterson, JK Rowling, and Rick Riordan will appreciate the fantastical, dangerous, and dark world of Wormwood. This is a great addition to libraries and personal bookshelves. Baldacci has few rivals in his ability to masterfully construct a good story.

Read an excerpt of The Finisher, and be sure to check out the book trailer below.

3.5 Stars

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