When I was a kid, my mom used to cry every time she read this book to us. I remember being squished into the Lay-Z-Boy recliner with her and my younger sister, enjoying the rhythm of the story and the coziness, but feeling awkward about the tears. When I was a teenager, I attended a retreat in which one of the leaders read this book as part of her presentation. I bawled. I knew then that I would be hopeless if I ever had to read this book aloud.
I got a copy of the book as a gift from my mom when I was pregnant. I told her I already knew I would be "hopeless" if I attempted to read it aloud and I joked that I wouldn't read it to my son until I had "practiced" reading it myself out loud for two weeks and was sure I could get through it without crying. But I have been "systematically" reading him the many children's books I received as gifts, and this one came up next on the shelf just days after I had proclaimed that I wouldn't read it aloud without sufficient preparation. So, I forged ahead.
I thought I was feeling strong the day I chose to begin reading it, but, nope. I was crying on the very first page. (It should be noted at this point that my son was only a little over a month old, so he was too young to feel awkward about mommy crying during story time. Maybe by the time he's old enough to notice I will have pulled it together.)
I did notice something upon my adult reading of the book that I'd never noticed before, and that is that the son has a rainbow mug next to his kitchen sink. I wonder if he is gay. We never see his baby's mother, and he is an older father (there is gray in his hair), which would be in line with the arduous years many gay men have to put in before they are able to adopt, probably even worse in the 1980s when this was published.
This interpretation lends a new poignancy to the story about unconditional love, at a time when many queer youth are still afraid to come out to their parents.
This led me to search online to see whether others had similar theories about the son's backstory, and I didn't find much. Instead, I saw how divisive this book apparently is, with half its readers adoring it as a story of unconditional love, the other half decrying it as "creepy" and comparing the mother to a "stalker."
I fall into the first camp. I was like, "Come on, the extreme lengths she goes to are a METAPHOR for the extreme love all parents feel for their children. Children's books are all about exaggeration -- they aren't meant to be taken LITERALLY."
Except I am just the kind of person who will pick apart children's media for imparting unrealistic or "creepy" messages ... which made me realize that there is absolutely NO way I can be objective about this book. Too much nostalgia, and too much love is wound up in my own memories of it, and my interpretation.
So this isn't so much a review as an explanation of my lack of objectivity -- and also an intention to impart that very same lack of objectivity to my own child(ren) by reading this to them when they, too, are too young to see it as anything but a book about love and cementing that interpretation evermore.
This seriously was and still is my favorite young adult fantasy trilogy! I have read it several times. I loved everything about this series, however, I wish each book was a trilogy that focused on the main character, like I would have loved more stories from Sabriel and Lirael. Companion novels are hit and miss, because you really get attached to characters and the next book is new characters!
So it should have been Sabriel 1-3 and then Lirael 1-3 (Abhorsen would have been part of the Lirael trilogy.) Heck Garth could have gave us a series based on each character. Let's say 7 books each? Is that good for everybody? Needless to say, I am a huge Garth Nix fan and love all the books I've read from him so far. It goes without saying that this trilogy gets a huge 5 star rating.
Sorry this isn't much of a review, more of a fangirl over a trilogy I like!
Other Garth Nix Books:
The 7th Tower Series (All 5/5 stars)
The Keys to the Kingdom Series (All 5/5 stars)
I might be biased as I love Garth Nix!
I have read this again as an adult. The last couple times I was around Harriet's age. It is a lot different from what I remember, and I am highly influenced by what I remember in the movie as I've seen that several times in my adult years. I feel like it still holds up, but honestly maybe not a glowing 5 star rating. It isn't a perfect book by any means. I'm leaving it at 5 stars, because this book (and the movie) were very important to me when I read/saw them for the first time at age 12. I even kept a journal and thought I was a spy for a while.
As an adult, I can say that Harriet was a little bit of a bratty, spoiled child, but I hardly blame her, because of how she was raised.
I also want to say that if Janie was really her best friend, I don't believe she would have read her diary/journal, and should have gave it back to Harriet. None of the mess would have happened. Harriet could have apologized for hurting people's feelings, but I don't think she should have to lie, maybe little white lies. Her journal was her personal thoughts and something she really needed. There are people who believe she might have been on the autism spectrum and the journal was her grounding activity.
Also how Janie and Sport treated Harriet does not come off how a best friend would treat another friend, even if they were angry at each other. I might be able to believe the other classmates actions, because they were never that close to Harriet. Some people think Golly was a bad influence, but I don't think so. She encouraged Harriet's imagination and seemed like the only person who could truly understand her, but that is just my opinion.
Other Louise Fitzhugh books:
The Long Secret (5/5 stars)
As a young teen or even preteen when I first read this, I am sure that I liked the book as I hardly knew better, but as an adult I cringe thinking about me reading this when I was so young.
Here is how I feel upon rereading:
I feel really bad, but I disliked this book. It is a quick paced read, so I did read the whole thing. Several things in this made me feel like I was all slime covered and uncomfortable. It is really a shame; I do remember her children books with fond memories. I still believe she is a good writer.
I understand why this book may have been important for the time period it was written in, but I still think the relationship in the book was toxic and should not have been anyone's reference guide to love and relationships.
Major spoilers for what I found wrong with this book.
This is what made me unsure about this book:
It seemed all Michael did was beg/pressure for sex and it felt like he only said "I love you" to get her to be more sexual. How they just off offhandedly talked about abortion like it was no big deal also rubbed me the wrong why. I am not going to get into a pro life/pro choice debate, but I really did not like how this was done in the book! Also cheating. Whether physical or emotional cheating. I don't like cheating in any format, books, movies... etc. Ugh