By L.L. Helland
Reading level: Ages 10-14
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace (February 24, 2011)
L.L. Helland’s aptly named The Hellandback Kids takes the reader on a wonderfully wacky, mind-bending fantasy adventure wherein the characters learn as the subtitle warns to “Be Careful What You Wish For.” Although the beginning is a bit stilted, once the four Hellandback children arrive at their great grandmother’s Scottish home for a vacation, the fast-paced action ensues. Gifted with extraordinary magical powers, their goodhearted clairvoyant Granmama and late great-grandfather Alastair help the teens learn life lessons that will allow them to make thoughtful decisions that will change their adult lives. Despite his wry humor, the youngest Chris serves as the emotional heart of the novel.
The four siblings embark on exciting and often dangerous journeys that will test their mettle and lead them to face challenges they never dreamed possible. Along the way they encounter a host of quirky characters including life-sized rats, vampires, giants, and the fun-loving Bundlebobs who disgustingly dip their toenails into their ears as if they were eating chips and salsa. Despite these few gross-out moments, Helland’s novel compels the reader to empathize with her characters as they learn hard lessons about self-reliance, the evils of corporate greed, how to take great risks and trust one’s gut when something feels distinctly wrong.
Perhaps the most moving of the escapades is young Trisha’s when her presumed Prince Charming Godfrey reveals his true identity as a soul-sucking vampire. Thanks to consumer culture’s recent vampire obsession and its predictable girl-must-find-mate plot, Trisha’s story seemed especially perceptive and original. Whether the Hellandbacks take on the bubonic plague or escape from a jail-like tomb, they learn as Granmama advises, “to take charge of their own lives and adventures” with courage and spirit.
Add this book to your collection: The HellandBack Kids: Be Careful What You Wish For
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