Liesl & Po and in fact even refer to it as one of my favourite books (because it is). In fact, I was so excited to read The Spindlers that I forced myself to hold onto it for about a month before I did– just because when I finished reading it I would be out of Oliver books to read until 2013. All that to say, I had high expectations.
And did The Spindlers meet my expectations?
That's not to say this story, about a young girl, Liza, who goes on an underground quest to find her brother's soul, which was stolen by the spindlers, wasn't a cute and fun read. But it wasn't blow-me-away-amazing either. It was okay. And with Oliver, I just expect more than that.
What The Spindlers is, is a great book for the intended audience, but it doesn't have the universal transcendence that Liesl & Po did. Some of my problems with the book included how slow the storytelling was, I put it down quite a few times during its 250 pages and I wasn't excited to go back. I wasn't riveted and pulled in a million directions and put back together. If anything, I was a bit confused. On her journey, Liza is accompanied by a rat of the same size she is. I was never sure if Liza shrunk when she went under her house, or if the rat grew. The setting itself wasn't that vivid, there was just a lot of mentions of dirt. Even the characters, which Oliver is usually so amazingly skilled at, just felt okay. I wasn't especially rooting for Liza, because I didn't feel like I really knew her.
The whole time I was reading The Spindlers, I couldn't help being reminded of Coraline by Neil Gaiman, which is a book I absolutely adore. But unlike Gaiman, Oliver's world isn't the creepy, her characters– even the bad ones– don't feel that scary. And even the plot doesn't feel original. There's a series of obstacles in the way of Liza finding her brother, but I never found myself breathless with anticipation on if she was going to succeed. I honestly didn't care that much, because everything was predictable and even the "big" twist didn't surprise me.
It's really hard to focus on the positive of The Spindlers because I was so incredibly disappointed by it. I love-love-love Lauren Oliver's writing, but this is a book that is cute. It's a book that's fun and charming, there's a talking rat I loved and some adults that don't understand their children. There are some unique and interesting creatures. Overall, The Spindlers is an okay middle-grade novel, and while I certainly haven't given up on Oliver, when it comes to her storytelling– okay is just so much less than what I expect.