Author: Gary Schwartz
Genre: Middle Grade Coming of Age
Length: 228 Pages (~6 hours on audio)
Release: October 2015
I received an audio copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
It's always fun for me when I hear that an author has narrated their own book. I don't know why, exactly, I just think that it adds more to the experience if you hear the words from the person who penned them.
But onto the actual reason for this post: the book. This story follows James, a child who receives no love from his mother and was abandoned by his father. He does well enough, but no better. And thus begins his quest to become the most average person that ever lived. It is at this point that he is transported to a world where Average is a kingdom in search of a king.
In the beginning this was a little bit of a hard listen for me. James is only a child and has to hear from his mother how he caused her so many problems and only made his life worse. Some of my own family have had similar experiences, so this was difficult to hear about in a story. It's very sad, but a reality for too many children these days.
Once James was transported to Average, things became more optimistic. There are plenty of lessons to be learned and James makes a lot of friends along the way. There is a French Optimist and his companion the Pessimist. A talking goat. And, eventually, other children. These characters help James learn about himself and what it means to really be average.
The idea behind this story is an intriguing one and I found it very clever. The names of the various kingdoms and the peoples that inhabit them were always so nicely devised. There were places like the Flatter Lands, where everyone was constantly flattering you. And then there were other darker lands, where paranoia seemed to rule all. The concepts were all fascinating and I found myself intrigued as each new place was introduced.
Overall I thought this was an enjoyable book to listen to. The narration was nicely done and the story a lot of fun. I did find certain parts repetitive and thought the ending wrapped up a little too quickly without enough closure, but I overall really enjoyed it.