Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Book Review - Paul Magrs' The Ninnies

The Ninnies by Paul Magrs
Book Provided by Obverse Books
Published by: Obverse Books
Publication Date: April 30th, 2012
Format: Kindle, 172 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy
One day Alan's Dad disappears. Everyone, even his Mom, believes Alan's Dad has done a runner. The family's reduced circumstances with a new baby on the way would make anyone do a bunk. Alan knows it isn't true. He saw his dad taken. They where tall with scorched looking skin and drove a black limousine. Then there was the sound of their feet, krunch, krunch, krunch, and their high pitched laugh, hee hee hee. These creatures where the very stuff of nightmares. But why would they want Alan's Dad? He's just a window cleaner, nothing much. More importantly, what are they?

Soon there are more disappearances in town. The police aren't taking an interest, but Alan knows it's the same creatures. In the flat above Alan's are two oldsters, a brother and sister, who, despite their advancing years, are quite sprightly, and noisy, and are driving Alan's mom insane with their disco music. When Alan finally gets to know Bunty and Marlton, he finds out that they have had dealings with these creatures and they know what they are, they are Ninnies.

No one quite knows what a Ninny is or what a Ninny wants. They are scary, shadowy creatures. They might be from space, or a different dimension, or straight out of our nightmares. They could explain the unexplainable, they might be the fairies and trolls of legend, they could be the spacemen people claim to see, they could be all of this and none of this, but disappearances are the first sign that they have arrived. The second sign is mutilation of animals. This soon occurs at the Bonnitime Zoo which is run by Twitsy Nesbit, a friend of Bunty and Marlton's. The final sign is people being addicted to some savory treat... very soon there is a new brand of crisps on the mark, Krispies, with strange names like "Zebra and Artichoke." Alan finds out about the crisps from his classmate Amy who works at her families store. Alan quickly becomes addicted. Even once he knows they are from the evil creatures that took his Dad, he can't stop himself. The Ninnies meanwhile can't leave Alan and his friends alone. Tapping on windows late and night, their menacing hee hee hee's coming out of the shadows. Something will have to be done about them... after one more bag of Krispies.

This book quite literally blew me away. I don't know what I was expecting, but it wasn't this. The title and the cover led me to think that this would be a silly little story about some mischievous creatures called The Ninnies that would be on the younger side of YA... don't ask me to explain why my brain thought this, it just did. My brain was not prepared to be blown. I think that's the best kind of book, the one that sneaks up on you and just wows you. This book was like Roald Dahl at his best, Neil Gaiman at his darkest and wittiest, or what you always wanted the Sarah Jane Adventures to be, but never quite where. Ghoulish, macabre and suspenseful, I loved it. It kept my up to the wee hours every night hoping not to hear a ghoulish hee hee hee coming from outside my bedroom door.

The mystery of the Ninnies combined with their side business in Krispies, which was run out of an old red brick Victorian Factory, made me feel like I was reading the dark cousin of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It's like the Oompa Loompa's had taken over the factory and started to kill and eat the small children. Hence it isn't odd that the book felt reminiscent of Gaiman, with his proclivities to kill families and children. Yet, despite these literary correlations, this book was all Paul Magrs. His wit and humor remained intact. You could tell this was the writer of the Brenda and Effie books with the eccentric cast of characters, the loving way he portrays the elderly and his love of pick and mix shops, yet, he stepped it up a notch. More humor, more horror, more suspense. The fact that Alan, once learning the truth of his food addiction and being unable to give it up, left you with a slight nauseous feeling while you where also finding it funny that he's hiding crisp packets about his person so that no one knows his "dark secret."

The Ninnies I think has quickly become my favorite of Magrs works. It brought back that feeling of horrible delight I had upon first reading Roald Dahl's Matilda in sixth grade. He also was able to maintain the suspense by only giving us a little bit at a time, like a single crisp instead of an entire packet to wolf down like Alan. If there was a down side it was that I felt the story should have been self contained and not open to a sequel. Sometimes a stand alone is what's needed and I don't know if the horrible suspense Paul has created will be able to carry though a second volume... but that again, I am willing to be surprised.


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