A comic novel, a surreal parody of children’s adventure stories aimed at adult readers in which, unnervingly, the time-travelling characters are aware of their place in the narrative, and the author treats them with curmudgeonly disdain. The plot, creaky and with more holes than a Swiss cheese, is the vehicle for the quirky and unusual humour which is packed onto every page. Our young-adult heroes, Betty, Daniel, Ricky, Amy and their dog Whatshisname, think that they live life on the edge, dominated by secret passwords and meetings. They have a tetchy relationship with Whatshisname, who might just be cleverer than they think; they also have a tetchy relationship with the author, who definitely isn’t. The characters sometimes become uncontrollable. Ricky walks out of the book at one stage and, at another critical point, Daniel demands that his character should wear spectacles. A feeble attempt by the author to kill off his characters fails miserably. This book for adults is crammed with humour, occasionally a little cheeky, never offensive, but always unashamedly silly.
I am an easily amused person. It doesn’t take much for me to crack a smile; a moderately humourous book will have me tittering; a cleverly written parody with witty quips and funny scenarios is likely to cause sudden outbursts of hysterical laughter and coffee to erupt from my nose.
This is not one of those books.
“With hints of Jasper Fforde…” claims the back cover. Except there’s one major difference. Jasper Fforde is funny.
This should have been a dream come true for someone like me. I adore Fforde’s sense of the bizarre, and as a child I whiled away many a happy hour with Enid Blyton, so this should have been a combination conceived in heaven. It was not.
It simply tries too hard.
The self-aware characters are too one-dimensional and it takes far too long for absolutely nothing to happen. And then when something does happen, it’s too trivial and incredibly dull.
I’m afraid I was unable to finish it. I gave it a good chance – I read more than half of it, but the entire time I was wishing it was modelled on the Choose Your Own Adventure series instead.
If you want Ricky to open the door, turn to page 73
If you want every last one of these incredibly annoying characters to spontaneously combust, thus ending this pathetic attempt at parody, turn to page 8
I’ll give you one guess which page I would have chosen.
Enid Blyton must be turning in her grave.
Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite