Thursday, January 5, 2023

Book Review 2022 #9 - Jonathan Stroud's The Hollow Boy

The Hollow Boy by Jonathan Stroud
Published by: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 15th, 2015
Format: Paperback, 385 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy

London is under siege. The Chelsea district is having a massive outbreak of hauntings. Every agency is being called in to help. Every agency but Lockwood and Co. Which gets under Lockwood's skin. But it's not like he has any spare time to complain at length. Every case that isn't a part of the Chelsea outbreak is falling to him, Lucy, and George, and they are overbooked. 35 Portland Row looks like a bomb has gone off. They haven't done laundry or dishes in weeks. Which makes it the perfect time for Lucy to get away. A few days off with her family will set her up nicely, plus the team is working better than ever before since Lockwood has let her and George more into his life and it's not like a few days off will change everything. Instead her family get on her nerves and when she returns early to Portland Row there's someone at her desk. Someone with perfect hair whom the boys are fawning over. This is Lucy's first impression of Holly Munro, Lockwood and Co.'s new assistant. Lucy is incensed. Sure the house is spotless, sure Lockwood had casually mentioned in passing hiring someone to clean up the place, but not Holly, not now. A few days off did change everything. Now Lockwood is letting Holly come on cases when she was supposed to stay back at Portland Row. Sure Holly's been able to introduce them to a new level of clientele because of her previous job at the Rotwell Agency, but Mrs. Wintergarden would have eventually come to Lockwood and Co. Probably. And while they take care of that haunting Lucy's obsession of attempting to communicate with spirits almost ends tragically. Lockwood is injured and it's all her fault. Her and her stupid Skull. But the case has given them the recognition they want, they are invited to investigate the Chelsea outbreak and to be a part of the big "Take Back the Night!" parade the Fittes and Rotwell agencies are putting on to boost morale. Which works exactly the opposite as they had intended. But through all the chaos one thing is always true, and that's George's ability to do better research than anyone and his research might have come up trumps.

This series is always a bit two steps forward one step back. There's a gangbuster plot, everything is on track, you think, this time, this time it's will be perfection, and then there's a treatise on George being chunky and Lucy unfavorably comparing herself to Holly. I mean the body shaming was the worst it's been yet in this volume and I can't help but think that these books are for younger readers and what message does that send to them? To me, being older and wiser, it just infuriates me, but if I had read this over and over when I was younger, it would have further fed into my body issues. Oh, and let's not forget the other stupid female stereotype this book feeds, let's throw in a female rivalry. Yes, I know it's stupid of the boys, Lockwood in particular, to bring in someone who would upset Lucy when as an agent calm is what is needed, but did Lucy and Holly really have to be rivals? Yes, they'll work everything out in the long run, blah, blah, but the enemy of a female shouldn't naturally be another female, just as a female shouldn't be forced into certain ideas of what their body should and shouldn't be. And while the body shaming is less present than the rivalry, which is a big plot point, it was an unnecessary plot point. There's this amazing apocalypse within an a apocalypse and we're going to focus on fat!?! OK, that makes absolutely zero sense. Also, I now find myself wondering what is the plural of apocalypse. Apocalypses? That seems lazy. But I love that the Problem is a slow burn end of days apocalypse while the Chelsea outbreak is an immediate apocalypse, like global warming versus the fall of democracy, both need to be taken care of but fixing one can help fix the other. Which brings me to something I found very interesting, this book was written in 2015 and yet it felt so very relevant. Life is horrible, here let us distract you with a parade. Which is then set upon by protesters. And those protesters, they really struck be forcibly. It felt like it was perfectly mirroring our world. But maybe the end days have a blueprint I never knew about?


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