Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Book Review: The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls by Claire Legrand

Hello again! Today I’ll be sharing my thoughts on Claire Legrand’s novel The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls. This delightfully creepy story does not disappoint.

Victoria cannot stand messes. She has perfect grades, perfect hair, and she always follows the rules. So she surprises even herself when she befriends Lawrence. Lawrence, who can’t tuck his shirt in or comb his hair. Lawrence, who Victoria is determined to fix. With a little work, he can be as perfect as she is. 

But then Lawrence goes missing. When Victoria starts investigating, she soon realizes he’s not the only kid who has disappeared. Lots of kids in Belleville have vanished- misfit kids, to be exact. And all roads lead to the mysterious Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls. Kids who go there come out smarter, prettier, better- or they don’t come out at all. 

It’s up to Victoria to save her friend and her town… even if it means getting a little messy.

I was trying to come up with a metaphor for how I felt while reading this book, and here’s what I came up with: you're lost in the middle of an unfamiliar forest at night with no plan out and the trees closing in... and then you hear a branch snap somewhere behind you. Part of this novel is that sinking feeling of uneasiness associated with being alone and lost in the dark, while the other part is the stomach-drop that occurs when you realize that you are, in truth, not alone. Legrand's skill in creating such an eerie tone/atmosphere is impressive, and she takes age-old fears such as being forgotten, having nowhere to turn for help, and not knowing who to trust and twists them into a story that keeps readers both fascinated and horrified. While there a couple gruesome aspects, they definitely don’t overpower the story, which is more of a psychological horror/suspense than a blood-and-gore one. It’s the type of book that fills you with the sense that something is inherently wrong by the end of the first chapter. “Mr. Prewett smiled at Victoria like someone had pins in the corners of his mouth and was slowly pulling them back toward his ears. It looked just like a smile should look. In fact, it looked better- wide and bright and shining.” Creepy, right? As you go along, you’ll realize Belleville isn't the perfect town it seems, or maybe, it's a little too perfect.

Besides the ominous atmosphere, I also admired the main character Victoria for her incredibly strong will and unwavering resolve to get to the bottom of the mystery at any cost. In many stories, it’s almost a given that the protagonist will persevere against all adversity, but with Victoria, she is truly out of her depth. She’s in a situation where her sense of order has been turned upside down; where playing by the rules like she’s been doing her entire life won’t help her win, and she knows that she’s at a disadvantage, but that doesn’t stop her. Victoria is one of the few with the choice between false security or the truth, and in her mind it’s simple. She won’t accept failure. Her unending desire to keep going and find her friend overrides her fear and makes her such a strong character. Furthermore, the growth she exhibits throughout the story from cold, almost destructively ambitious to understanding the worth of others as different, not worse, is another aspect I love. And while most of the book is focused on Victoria, I enjoyed Lawrence as well, with his quiet strength, and their friendship is genuinely fun and believable.

In all, this book was unsettling and bittersweet in the best way, and fans of Coraline or The Mysterious Benedict Society will enjoy this read.

Find The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls in the Monroe County Library System and Barnes & Nobles.


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