Rating: 4 stars
“At a certain level, it could be described as The Secret Garden on acid.” – I may have been heard to say this. Maybe.
‘Wed Wabbit. Don’t laugh, he’s dangerous.’
With the above tagline and the published cover, I found myself hesitant to pick this book up. Don’t ask me why – there was no logic (as far as I could tell). It was only when a manager suggested I read this (“I’ve put Wed Wabbit near your bag”, aka me picturing the book slowly creeping towards my belongings at work, before jumping into my bag with an evil laugh), and, knowing full well how spot on she can be with recommendations (seriously, it’s a sight to behold), I thought I should give it a go.
Let me set the scene for you – to begin with, I read the author note at the start of the book (the copy I was reading was a proof, but I’m guessing the author note is in the finished copy somewhere). ‘The Secret Garden with a mad, possibly killer, toy rabbit’ was what I took from the author note, and so (with slight trepidation), I began reading.
The story follows Fidge, an 11 year old, who ends up temporarily moving in with her aunt, uncle, and cousin, after her little sister is involved in a car accident. In a strange turn of events, she ends up in a fictional land, accompanied by her irritating cousin, some unbelievable remnants from reality, and three thousand Wimbley Woos. Oh, and the solution to their way home is obscured behind a set of seemingly impossible clues. No biggie, right?
For the first third of the book, I was slightly in shock. My brain was wondering what on earth I was reading (not in a bad way, just in a slightly frazzled and what-the-hell-is-going-on way), as the seemingly innocent (and a little sad) beginning of the book gave way to Fidge’s journey down the alternate rabbit hole (side note – I love Fidge. Wonderful, brave, flawed Fidge).
As the story develops, the characters blossom wonderfully. I loved Fidge and her cousin Graham’s relationship with each other, the Wimbley Woos are like weird teletubby/dustbin hybrids (I am so relieved they don’t actually exist), and Dr Carrot and Ella Elephant are possibly some of my favourite characters ever created. The impossible clues and imaginative solutions made this a delight to read, and I am so glad this book was suggested to me.
In trying to sum up my thoughts on the book, I had noted down ‘kind of like Alice in Wonderland, The Secret Garden, and The Castle of Inside Out all blended together on a Disneyland-Paris-Winnie-the-Pooh-ride-acid-trip’ – and honestly, I don’t think I could describe this wonderful, hilarious, bizarre book any better.