|TITLE: The Great Unexpected AUTHOR: Sharon Creech|
PUB: Harper Collins PUB DATE: 9/4/12
FORMAT: ARC, 240 pgs
SOURCE: from pub for review
THREE WORDS: Charming, Quirky, Unexpected
I had big thoughts to match the big wind. I wondered if we find the people we need when we need them. I wondered if we attract our future by some sort of invisible force, or if we are drawn to it by a similar force. I felt I was turning a corner and that change was afoot. In the little town of Blackbird Tree live two orphan girls: one Naomi Deane, brimming with curiosity, and her best friend, Lizzie Scatterding, who could talk the ears off a cornfield. Naomi has a knack for being around when trouble happens. For she knows all the peculiar people in town--like Crazy Cora and Witch Wiggins and Mr. Farley. But then, one day, a boy drops out of a tree. The strangely charming Finn boy. Then the Dingle Dangle man appears, asking all kinds of questions. Curious surprises are revealed--three locked trunks, a pair of rooks, a crooked bridge, and that boy. Soon Naomi and Lizzie find themselves zooming toward a future neither could ever have imagined. Meanwhile, on a grand estate across the ocean, an old lady whose heart has been deceived concocts a plan. . . . As two very different worlds are woven together, Newbery Medal winner Sharon Creech celebrates the gossamer thread that connects us all, and the great and unexpected gifts of love, friendship, and forgiveness.
MY REVIEW: Sharon Creech's MG book The Great Unexpected is aptly titled. When I began this book I had no expectations, having never read the author's work before, and I never expected the surprisingly touching and charming story that I got.
In Blackbird Tree two little orphan girls, Naomi and Lizzie, meet the handsome and mysterious Finn boy. These two girls are used to being around peculiar people, as their small town is full of them, but this Finn boy is a puzzle. While Naomi tries to figure Finn out, an old woman across the ocean in an estate in Ireland concocts a plan to heal a broken heart and make amends. Neither Naomi nor this woman realize how connected their stories and lives are, but with the help of three locked trunks, a pair of rooks, that Finn boy and the odd Dingle Dangle man, Naomi, Lizzie and the old woman find out that there's a thread that connects everyone's story together.
The Great Unexpected is one of the oddest (in the best way possible), most quirky and whimsically charming MG stories I've ever read. Creech has crafted a truly unique and moving story full of enchanting characters and a lot of heart.
At 240 pages this is a shorter read, but the story lacks nothing. The story had me completely engrossed from beginning to end and I finished the book in one sitting. The chapters alternate between Naomi's perspective in Blackbird Tree and the third person perspective in Ireland, and I did find this switch a bit jarring and confusing at first. But the narration quickly finds its flow and for the most part I found the story to be nicely paced. The tone and voice Creech has created and written is pitch perfect, authentic and captivating.
This is a very character driven story and the characters are wonderfully engaging, likable and well-developed. Naomi feels like an old soul with her wise beyond her years attitude, dry wit and rational logic, but she also has a very compelling and layered vulnerable side. Lizzie is genuinely and endearingly sweet as sugar, refreshingly innocent and too amusing with her non-stop chatter and dramatics. I just love the dynamic and friendship between these two; they're very different, but their friendship just makes perfect sense. And Naomi's dry wit and rationality and Lizzie's wide-eyed innocence and over-the-top mannerisms make for very funny and entertaining dialogue and scenes.
While across the ocean, Mrs. Kavanagh and Pilpenny make for another odd, but endearing pair. Like Naomi and Lizzie, these two older women have a friendship that works despite their differences, and like Naomi and Lizzie, this older pair are highly amusing. And in Blackbird Tree Naomi and Lizzie interact with quirky characters like Crazy Cora and Witch Wiggins. And of course that mysterious Finn boy is a charmer and incredibly intriguing!
The story itself is full of mystery, romance and thought-provoking real-world situations. The exact time period is not given, but the story feels both incredibly modern and beautifully timeless. The mystery surrounding the past and futures of Naomi, Lizzie, Mrs. Kavanagh, Pilpenny, Naomi's guardian, and many of Blackbird Tree's residents, and how they are all connected, is wonderfully crafted and a lot of fun. One must suspend a certain level of disbelief to fully accept how everything in this story plays out, but overall the story was just too easy to love for me to care.
MY FINAL THOUGHTS: The Great Unexpected was definitely and pleasently full of the unexpected. A wonderfully unusual and delightful story full of engaging characters, a deliciously quirky story and lovely writing, make this is a fantastic MG read!
Sharon Creech is the author of the Newbery Medal winnerWalk Two Moons and the Newbery Honor Book The Wanderer. Her other work includes the novels The Unfinished Angel, Hate That Cat, The Castle Corona, Replay,Heartbeat, Granny Torrelli Makes Soup, Ruby Holler, Love That Dog, Bloomability, Absolutely Normal Chaos, Chasing Redbird, and Pleasing the Ghost, as well as three picture books: A Fine, Fine School; Fishing in the Air; and Who's That Baby? Ms. Creech and her husband live in upstate New York.