Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Review: The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls by Claire Legrand

Title: The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls
Author: Claire Legrand
Series: N/A
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Release Date: August 28, 2012
ISBN13: 9781442442917
Format: Hardcover, 343 pages
Genre: MG, YA, horror, urban fantasy
Source: borrowed from library

Victoria likes things neat and tidy.

Her hair gleams, her grades shine, and her room is as immaculate as the manicured lawns in her hometown of Belleville. Her life is perfect.

Until her best friend, Lawrence, goes missing.

Without Lawrence, Victoria has no one to walk to school with, no one to reprimand for not doing his homework, no one's life to run but her own. Naturally, Victoria launches an investigation. But Lawrence isn't the only missing kid in town. Beneath Belleville's perfection are dark, deadly, creepy secrets, and Victoria soon realizes Mrs. Cavendish's children's home down the street is behind it all. Kids who go there come out better—prettier, smarter, well behaved—or they don't come out at all.

The grown-ups Victoria talks to only feed her lies. But Victoria is not top of her class for nothing. She will have to use her smarts to save her only friend and her beloved hometown from Mrs. Cavendish's evil clutches . . . even if it means getting a little bit messy.
The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls was an absolute delight to read. It starts off by introducing Victoria, the protagonist, and her best friend. It is immediately clear that Victoria is a snooty best friend to Lawrence, and constantly reprimands him for being a constant annoyance and awfully flawed to Victoria herself. Then one day, Lawrence simply disappears, and Victoria is left to do everything by herself. Loneliness does not begin to describe how she feels. But she's not just lonely. There's just something simply wrong with the neighbourhood; all those children going missing seems suspicious . . .

I feel like Claire Legrand took everything I loved about MG reads and smooshed them into a single story. One of them is a moral. It teaches kids the lessons of life, and reminds older readers what is truly important. What I like about The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls is that it doesn't shove a moral in your face. In fact, it may not have been a moral at all, but I felt like the book actually did have an underlying message for its readers. I felt like the entire message was hidden within a character's development, the setting and the cast that lived within it, and a seemingly friendly antagonist. But that could just be me reading far too much into the story.

Another thing I found interesting about The Cavendish Home was the symbolism in the names. In the book, Victoria mentions how she felt quite partial to a sign featuring the word "Victory" because of how it made her feel as if her parents always knew she'd be a winner. As well, Miss Cavendish has a symbolic name as well, and one that doesn't really need explaining.

Though The Cavendish Home is a MG read, it has a lot of crossover YA appeal. Something that'd come in handy would be its third-person PoV. With a third person narrative, I am not forced into a first person narrative with a mindset that I cannot agree with, which tends to happen a lot with YA reads. I mean, it's kind of obvious I'm not a grade school-aged perfectionist, and while a few years ago it may have been true, don't force me to think like someone I clearly am not.

Continuing on with the endless list of things I love about The Cavendish Home is its cover. Usually, I'm not a fan of brown, but it fits perfectly in this case. Not to mention how the cover isn't just a couple of random images thrown together, they're actually relevant to the story, from the characters to the dog to the home.

Moving on. I love Legrand's construction of Victoria's character. She was condescending, mean, pushy, and just so wonderfully flawed. You can see how that could come about from pressure, from her parents, peers, her perfect town. But you notice how she regrets some things. Like her being such a terrible friend to Lawrence just before he disappeared. After all, she is very much human. And along her more negative qualities are some that are great contributors to her part in freeing the children from the twisted home, including her ambition, perseverance, intellect. As well, you would notice subtle changes to her character, like her being so terrified for Lawrence in the home, her disgust at Miss Cavendish's torture methods, and her kindness to Jacqueline whom she previously shunned. All those developments happened within Victoria, but she didn't lose her spunk or attitude, which was one of the many things I admire about The Cavendish Home.

Another character that stood out to me was Miss Cavendish. She is among the most conniving antagonists I have ever read, with a nice, but aloof demeanor, and hidden viciousness within. It's like having someone grin at you while stabbing you in the stomach, or as one of Bruno Mars' lyrics say, "You'll smile at my face then rip the brakes out my car." Wonderful. Just wonderful. (Note the sarcasm.)

The entire story, altogether, was just . . . indescribable. (See? I'm out of words here.) The plot line fell into place in a very simple way, but with subtle twists, perfect for MG readers. Its ending was just so absolutely magical, showing you how Victoria's life went on, but with this gigantic twist thrown in that makes the story live on.

Just to wrap things up, The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls is a far-beyond-my-expectations read that is not great for just MG readers, but also holds great appeal for YA readers as well. Get this, and you won't be disappointed, I swear.

". . . and so what I really mean is," finished Lawrence, his face turning quite red, "sometimes, the counselors or professors or Mom and Dad say, 'Don't you care that you don't have many friends?' And I say, 'Not really. Because I have Vicky.'"
~pg. 5
But when Lawrence's face popped into her mind, it was clear and steady. She had no trouble focusing on the memory of his face and how he shuffled alongside her when hey walked together in the mornings and how he hummed to himself when he was happy.
~pg. 49
May Bird and the Ever After by Jodi Lynn Anderson - With a similar despairing narrative and dark storyline, try this after you burn through The Cavendish Home.

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart - A couple of brilliant children must infiltrate an educational institution whose goals are less than positive . . .

The Fairy-Tale Detectives by Michael Buckley - For the Grimm sisters, things are not looking up. They're sent to live with a relative they never knew existed, a kooky grandmother. And thus they discover an entire world they were not even aware of . . .
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