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Within the beauty of Amsterdam, lies a secret behind a mask
on 6 October 2014
Ok, so I was unsure whether to even review this book, and here is why....
Basically, I picked this up from the YA section of my local bookshop (my frequent haunt), and having heard nothing at all about it, I was intrigued enough to take it home and give it a go. After finishing it, it became clear that this book is aimed more towards the 'young' in young adult...and definitely not towards a 20-something like me who does happen to enjoy YA fiction.
For that reason, I had to think more about my judgements of Through Dead Eyes by Chris Priestley. If, I am not indeed the target audience - then maybe my opinion of the book doesn't matter as much. Maybe someone else who is more fitted to who the author wrote this book for - would get alot more from it? Does that make sense? I didn't want to unfairly judge this book, when I think that I was just the wrong person to read it.
That being said, I HAVE decided to review it on here. I am going to keep objective about it. I will be stating a few things I wasn't so keen on, but for the most part I will be keeping my big opinionated nose out of the process, and forwarding some gentle advice about who I think should read this book, and who I think may be disappointed in it.
Okay...so what is this book? Through Dead Eyes is a story about a boy named Alex. Moving away from a troubled home and school life, Alex and his father are taking a trip to Amsterdam for one of his father's business ventures. When they arrive, Alex finds himself settling into a creepy old hotel...and he can't shake the feeling that someone is watching him in his room. With Alex's father tied up in business meetings, Alex is left in the somewhat unstable hands of Angelien - the daughter of Saskia, a business friend of Alex's father (or maybe more?). Angelien spends her days showing Alex around the beautiful city of Amsterdam. It is on one of these visits that Alex finds, and is instantly drawn to an antique mask. Investigation leads him to find that the mask has strange and unusual ties to the hotel where Alex is staying, and nothing can prepare him for the horrific past he discovers when he looks through the mask....through dead eyes.
I will talk first about the writing style - which I think is great. Priestley does a fantastic job of pulling you in to a story. He creates suspense and mystery without giving too much away, and I felt like the characters were interesting and pretty well fleshed out for quite a small book. The fact that this is set in Amsterdam was definitely my favourite aspect of the book. The writing is beautifully descriptive in all the right places, and I adored exploring the city with Alex and Angelien. In our life, we hear alot about the party scene in Amsterdam, but less about the beauty that lies in the place...this was something I really enjoyed throughout the book.
Speaking of characters, these are an interesting bunch who are very well developed even though the story is only just over 200 pages. Angelien was really intriguing, I would've loved to know more about her, the same goes for Alex and his backstory. We get glimpses...but I felt like we needed more to understand him properly. I really enjoyed the relationship between Alex and his father - a mixture of genuine love and comfort mixed with the frustration of a parent and his petulant teenager. I will talk about the ending more in a moment (no spoilers I promise), but I felt as though the ending didn't really do the characters much justice and kind of just threw them away.
The mystery behind the mask was definitely interesting. The idea that you can look through something and see the world through the eyes of the previous owner is pretty cool (and terrifying!). I enjoyed learning more about the history behind the hotel, it's previous occupants and the creepy story of Hanna - the girl who wore the mask.
However, by the end of the book I was left disappointed. I felt as though things were rushed. We kind of get an answer to the mystery - but lots of things are left unexplained. The build-up of characters feels irrelevant as we are suddenly expected to drop some of them without much of a goodbye or any closure....I didn't like it. For me, the end of this book just wasn't enough. Not enough explanations, too many loose ends - and I'm not talking about the twist/cliffhangar ending (which I found predictable and not enough to save the story for me).
Overall, I enjoyed the book, but just wished for more. More backstory, more development, more depth - something was lacking - which is a shame because the writing was good and the story had promise. This isn't a bad book by any means, but I probably wouldn't recommend it to anyone over the age of around 13, as it just doesn't pack enough punch. I was going to rate this 2 stars, but wanted to be a little more fair, as I feel like a younger reader will probably enjoy this alot more than I did, and take much more away from it. It definitely has a Goosebumps-esque feel to it (which is in no way a bad thing!), but bear that in mind if you decide to pick this up.