Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Marvels by Brian Selznick

Summary from Goodreads:
Caldecott Award winner and bookmaking trailblazer Brian Selznick once again plays with the form he invented and takes readers on a voyage!

Two seemingly unrelated stories--one in words, the other in pictures--come together. The illustrated story begins in 1766 with Billy Marvel, the lone survivor of a shipwreck, and charts the adventures of his family of actors over five generations. The prose story opens in 1990 and follows Joseph, who has run away from school to an estranged uncle's puzzling house in London, where he, along with the reader, must piece together many mysteries.
I picked up an advanced copy of this at BEA. The finished book comes out in September. I’ve wanted it since I heard of it, and I was so unbelievably happy to get my hand on this so early. It’s one of the first books I read from BEA. I physically could not sit in the same room as this book at not read it. And well, this may be my favorite Selznick book yet.
This author is so good from switching back and forth between narrative prose and illustration. Telling the first half of this story in illustration though was new. There is no prose until the second half of the book! Technically, there are words. There are tidbits from newspaper articles, signs, and advertisements. But, I’ve never read anything like this. I had to put things together on my own because only so much can be revealed through pictures. I loved this. I loved that it wasn’t linear or easy. And oh, man, the artwork in here. It’s what you’d expect from a master like Selznick.
This book is not for everyone. It’s not the standard graphic novel you can hand to a reluctant reader. This is a book for readers who love to read. And there were some complexities in it that I’m not sure I would have fully grasped had I not read it as an adult. That being said, everything this book accomplishes in its complex webs of stories, actors, relatives, and uniqueness is just plain brilliant.
I read the whole 650 page volume in one day (granted, half of it is in picture). The story moved fast because you are trying so hard to fit all the pieces together and then to connect the two different stories. Selznick accomplishes here what David Wiesner does with picture books like Flotsam; he is able to tell so much just through images. And the other author I kept finding connections to here was the adult author, David Mitchell. The layers to all the stories and worlds and characters reminded me a lot of Cloud Atlas (my favorite adult book besides the works of Austen).
There’s all the good stuff that makes up a good middle grade book too: family drama, a theme of coming of age, an attempt at running away, making new friends, and acceptance. There’s a nice LGTQ element as well. And there’s also sadness, mental illness, and grief. I wasn’t the biggest fan of all the aspects of the ending, if anything, because I’m not really sure what it all did for the story at large, but that’s okay. I still whole-heartedly loved this book.
I have never read anything like this. This book accomplishes so much with so few words (in the beginning). The layers to the story, the fascinating characters, and the artwork really make this a unique book. I can’t wait to read more reviews for this once it is published. I give it a 10/10.

1 comment:

  1. Oh I'm so happy that you've already read this and that you loved it so much :D I've yet to read anything by Selznick yet, but I own Hugo Cabret and I want to read Wonderstruck as well. I'm excited that this one is your favorite though!! It sounds like a real gem^^