Sticky sweet and not too scary

Title: The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls                             Author:  Claire Legrand                                                            Publication Date:  August 28, 2012                                         Publisher: Simon+Schuster for Young Readers                          Format:  Hardcover 352 pages                                                          Genre:  YA    

Rating:  Remembering that this was written for middle-graders, this one takes all 5 pumpkins!  There were some plot twists that would never make it in Stephen King, and some old-fashioned horrors that would make scary movie fans giggle–but my friends this one’s for the kids.

Synopsis (from Goodreads): Victoria hates nonsense. There is no need for it when your life is perfect. The only smudge on her pristine life is her best friend Lawrence. He is a disaster—lazy and dreamy, shirt always untucked, obsessed with his silly piano. Victoria often wonders why she ever bothered being his friend. (Lawrence does too.)
But then Lawrence goes missing. And he’s not the only one. Victoria soon discovers that The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls is not what it appears to be. Kids go in but come out…different. Or they don’t come out at all.  If anyone can sort this out, it’s Victoria—even if it means getting a little messy. 

Acquisition:  the NOOK 

The Nashville Connection:  Well, there isn’t one.  But anyone who has ever lived in a city that sometimes tries too hard to project and protect a particular image can relate.

Review:   The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls is a delicious treat of a story.  The kind that you know you should put down to do important, adult things, but you just can’t stop.  You may keep reading, even when you feel a little sick.  It is, without question a book written for its middle grade audience.  But, if you are the kind of adult who thinks there might be something just a little bit wrong with teaching a child to always color inside the lines, who thinks that maybe just maybe the whole world is drowning in Stepford-esque suburbia, then this is the book for you.  If you hope you are that particular adult who would be the cool teacher, or the one who never could quite follow all the directions, then Professor Alban and Mr. Tibbalt will be two of your favorite supporting heroes.

Victoria and Lawrence have the sort of co-ed friendship that makes them seem as though they’ve been married for fifty years, and their loyalty to each other supports that notion.  While the plot seems a bit contrived at times, the friendship between the two of them never did.  It was Lawrence’s character that made the book worthwhile for me, a true hero–even if he did need Victoria’s rescue.

This is truly a horror story where evil threatens innocence, then uses all its nasty devices and monsters to flush love out and eat it.  While it’s unlikely that Ms. Cavendish and her home could exist in real life, the reader is left with a strange, haunting feeling that perhaps there are other forms of her just next door.

Ms. Legrand is a master of scenery and TNR suspects more than a few middle grade trick or treaters will pass estate lots on Halloween night and be on the lookout for strange trees and roaches.

Quotable: “As they crept on tiptoe through the gardens, an awful rotting smell started to sting their noses…It came from one of the cottages, back where the grounds and gardens changed into thick trees and briar patches. Rusty piles of tools and equipment littered the ground.”

“Victoria’s fingers trembled as she read those words over and over.  They were a lie.  She wasn’t one of Professor Carroll’s best students. Lawrence was.  Lawrence, who hummed when he walked, who laughed and told Victori she was funny, even though she certainly never tried to be.”

“Town Square on a Saturday morning was a glorious place. Everywhere whirled shining silver cars, gliding doors, trickling fountains, and stylishly dressed Bellevillians clicking their heels…Everything smelled of clean, crisp money.”