Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Apprenticeship of Lucas Whitaker by Cynthia DeFelice

This book wasn't meant for me. I knew that from the moment I looked at the long title from the fact that its teaser boasted this tagline, "Lucas learns of a strange cure...but is it science or superstition?" However, I tried to keep an optimistic mindset, but as I ventured further and further into the world of...Lucas, I grew steadily irritated. I found the characters to be two-dimensional, stereotypical cutouts. Lucas' family dies from consumption (a.k.a. tuberculosis) and neighbors of his are convinced of their miraculous cure of digging up the body that they believe is getting others sick, cutting out and then burning the heart, and then having the infirm inhale the fumes. Oh, goody. Lucas finds himself stricken with grief and eventually at the doorstep of Doc Beecher whom he is soon apprenticing for. Of course, Doc finds the cure to be nonsense as would any educated man/grandfather figure would, but as Lucas is the guilty/rebellious/teenager/haunted by nightmares of his family dying/idiot that he is, he clings to the superstition. The plot is clunky and ended very abruptly with little closure. The story takes place in 1849 (which is, ironically, the year Edgar Allan Poe died and many of Poe's family died from TB) and usually I adore this period. In this case, it acts as a vehicle for this depressingly somewhat dull tale of an overused premise. It’s not horrible, but it is, in essence, simplicity and I didn’t feel any passion behind the writing. It seemed to be only going through the motions and not taking any effort to add subtlety or anything particularly intriguing. As I said before, this book wasn't meant for me. It was meant for younger readers to introduce them to new vocabulary and improve their reading skills, but I can think of better books to accomplish the same goals. As much criticism as I have spewed forth in this review, I can’t harbor too much dislike for it. On the one hand, I couldn't connect to any of the characters and the motivations and actions were so direct, obvious, and plain that I couldn't enjoy it. However, it does serve as an introduction to this sort of style. It’s a less complicated version of a character suffering a great tragedy, finding a mentor and then rejecting his teachings only to embrace them as the plot moves along. It’s an adequate starting point, but ultimately, not to my tastes, although it does possess a sense of macabre that I could appreciate. Overall, I found it a half-hearted attempt that disappoints and crushes what potential it may have had. Two stars out of five. **

Review by Alisa Heskin

I would like to make one addition. However harsh I am, overall, this book is relatively harmless. There are two different types of negative, the sort that has no intention of being so, and that which sets out to lower your IQ from sheer stupidity and horribleness. Fortunately, this book is the former and for that, I can be more forgiving of its shortcomings.

On a second note, I do apologize for the unnecessarily critical review that was posted earlier. My personal affairs shouldn’t bleed into my writing, very unprofessional of myself.

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