Friday, April 7, 2017

Review: Grendel's Guide to Love and War by A.E. Kaplan

Grendel's Guide to Love and War is a clever tale loosely based on Beowulf. It's told from the perspective of a young man named Tom Grendel. He and his friends go in against Rex Rothgar and Wolf who are throwing crazy loud parties in the house next door.

It's a neighborhood with mostly senior citizens for occupants. Grendel and his family are the exceptions to the rule until Ellen Rothgar moves in next door with her two children, Rex and Willow. Now the mom is away and the mice will play. Rex starts throwing raucous parties. Grendel's father is a formerly deployed soldier with PTSD. The loud sounds are a trigger for him. Grendel wants to do the best he can to stop this from happening. His father goes on a trip down to Florida for his job and Grendel gets to work.

I really enjoyed the characters in this story, especially Tom and his friend Ed, and his sister Zipora. Willow was nice, but unreliable. Tom needed the help of his best friend and his sister in his efforts to vanquish the Rothgar tumult.

There are secondary plots. One involves Tom's relationship with the senior citizens in the neighborhood. The other secondary plots are romance related. I enjoyed reading about Tom's efforts to take down and preserve the stories of the elders on his street. The romance was nice too. Just a touch of it, not too much.

The ending has a twist to it that works quite well. Mrs. Werm is definitely a formidable character with her gun tucked into her house dress and her eye patch. I loved Mrs. Lee who along with the other ladies on the street tend to mother Tom.

I enjoyed the language in the book too. There are images such as the hot Virginia air being so thick with humidity that you swim through the air more than anything else. And there was a comparison of the human mind as a "veritable turducken of unknowability." There were just so many good lines in the book. Some of them made me laugh or smile. Some just had a ring of truth to them.

In the author's note, A.E. Kaplan explains the source of her inspiration for the book and how it relates to the tale of Beowulf. It's worth reading.

I give this book 4 stars out of 5. It's well written and the characters are mostly enjoyable. The ones who aren't, you aren't supposed to like anyway (think Rex and Wolf).

Grendel's Guide to Love and War is expected to be published April 18, 2017 by Knopf Books for Young Readers.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. Any quotes are from the ARC and subject to possible change in the final edition.