The Green Man
Published April 10, 2012 by Tundra Books
YA contemporary fantasy
Review copy from NetGalley
If this book had been longer and more fleshed out, I think it could have been great. As it was, I quite liked it, particularly the lovely writing style.
When her father travels to Italy for research one summer, fifteen-year-old O, short for Ophelia, spends the time with her Aunt Emily, who owns a secondhand bookstore called "The Green Man." O, a budding poet, enjoys helping her aunt in the store, but when odd things start to happen, Emily realizes that her past is coming back to haunt her and O as well.
I loved the poetic style of this story. With two poets as main characters, it could hardly be otherwise, but reading parts of this book was like having words wrapped around my head so that the rest of the world disappeared. The writing was beautiful and my favorite part of the book.
The setting was another high positive. Most of the story takes place among books, which is always something to be happy about. I wish there had been a bit more about the bookstore itself – I wanted to see more of the ghosts of poets past, and have a better picture of the store. I would have liked to know more about the story of the green man as well. If the book, which was rather short, had been a bit (or a lot) longer, the setting could have been more developed.
One aspect for which I actually appreciated the under-development was the magic. There is magic in this book, but it is mysterious and dangerous, the opposite of the magic of words that Emily and O possess. The mystery surrounding the magic in this story – even the question of whether or not it really existed – added suspense and gave the book a wonderfully ethereal quality that's missing from most of this genre. Of course, the writing contributed to this aspect as well, but the uncertainty of the magic, of what's really happening in to O and Emily, really makes it a better story.
However, Emily and O themselves didn't feel entirely real either, which was not a positive. As much as I loved the writing and the setting, the characters didn't live up to the same standard. They weren't bad, they just didn't come alive the way other parts of the story did. Again, with a longer book this could have been much better. As it was, O and Emily weren't much more than faint outlines of characters without much personality. I've seen much worse characters, but there was plenty of room for improvement. And even at the end I knew next to nothing about O's love interest, and while the mystery was definitely part of his appeal, it would have been nice to know his real name, at the very least.
But overall, I really enjoyed this book. It's a quick read and definitely worthwhile for fans of a more mysterious sort of magic with a light touch of romance.
In the same aisle
A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L'Engle
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern