Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

Book:  The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
Author:  Alan Bradley
Like/Don't Like:  I was completely taken in

I've been a little annoyed lately with writers who don't trust their readers.  Few things infuriate me more than when an author spends too much time explaining things that should be understandable through context.  Or puts in references simply to look smart.  It makes me feel like they think I'm dumb.  You have to trust that your reader will figure things out on her own.

So here we have Alan Bradley who not only wrote a YA novel, a genre that is fraught with this sort of stuff, but did it without the slightest bit of condescension.  This story is stocked with Latin phrases, chemical compounds, allusions to female chemists, snippets of Shakespeare, and a mystery involving stamp collecting and not a bit of it is spoon fed to you like you're an imbecile.  He does not coddle his readers at all  His heroine, Flavia de Luce, is a smart, no-nonsense, eleven year old budding chemist and member of the British gentry.  She's a heroine I can get behind and not just because she's a girl sleuth.  I love girl sleuths.  With the exception of Nancy Drew who was just too perfect.  Ugh, didn't you just wish Ned would dump her, even if he was a dope? 

Anyway, Flavia finds herself in the middle of a murder mystery and she manages to make her way around the inspectors and the murderer and her two scheming sisters to discover the truth, all while whizzing around the English countryside on her bike.  It is charming and smart and a book I would have devoured if I had gotten my hands on it as an 11 year old.  Ok, so I devoured it as a 36 year old.  It's just that good.

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