Tuesday, January 5, 2010

So what do we think? 39 Clues book 4: Beyond the Grave

Watson, Jude. (2009) The 39 clues book 4: Beyond the grave. ISBN-10: 0545060443 Please read criteria and full review at http://www.litland.com/

This book takes off with action straight away as Dan and Amy are chased by Irina. There is sufficient information about past events woven into the first few chapters that the reader can understand the events within context of the hunt. History, culture and religion are smoothly tied together, allowing the reader to see how the historical actions of an Egyptian queen, a Muslim commander and the Magi of the Christian bible (each important to the history of the region) are interconnected.

The self-talk of Amy and Dan is realistic yet neither is overly negative to the other. An example would be Amy thinking her brother has a computer for a brain (p. 31). This book is also a good example of how the main characters think their way out of “traps” without being mean, disrespectful to authorities or breaking the law. Example p. 20-22.

A host of real emotions are demonstrated as well as appropriate ways of dealing with it. Remorse is shown for past lying, cheating and stealing. Amy wonders if they are becoming as bad as the Cahills. Her questioning of their grandmother’s honesty threatens to break Dan and Amy apart permanently, but they realise they need one another. The self talk p. 117 clearly articulates feelings of family loss and emptiness from separation. They voice their distress particularly over family loss (p. 132-33) and feelings are clearly articulated; no doing harm to one another and no “getting even”. P. 140 they openly talk through their differences and the family bonds take precedent over squabbles, demonstrating loyalty.

In one situation, they consider calling the police, showing they automatically consider doing the right thing. No negativity expressed about authorities; rather, handled very matter-of-fact without hesitation.

Although not as frequent as book 3, this author has given us moments of subtle humor. An example is the beginning of chapter 8, in which Dan comments “After all these years of hating museums, he’d turned into a permanent exhibit.”

Self-respect: we see moments of Amy’s low self-esteem grow such as page 151, but it is never taken to the extreme of self denigration or depression. There is always an air of hope or seed of optimism. This makes her character very realistic, very unlike a hero, the underdog whom we want to root for as she continues to show strength, courage and determination in spite of her self-doubts.

Finally, each book further develops one “bad guy” in the Cahill family, allowing the reader to better understand his or her motives and see their human side. In book 4, Irina’s self-talk gives hints that she is suppressing emotional pain from life experiences. Her character is given depth and emotions.

Final thoughts

This was a really fun book. The action scenes depict the main characters’ every move, making the reader feel as if they are in the scene. Yet it does so without gore and violence, manipulation, dishonesty (of the main characters), or any negativity. The feud between Amy and Dan is heart-wrenching and, again, we can understand their feelings and distraught. Yet family ties conquer all, and they rely upon their strengths throughout the story to keep ahead of the “bad guys”. Excellent book!

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