Sunday, June 20, 2010

Review: The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place by E.L. Konigsburg

I can be seen reading the same book for weeks, taking it a page at a time because I have other things to do that take precedence over the book, but that is not the case with The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place. I read the entire book in two days, even while working the front desk at my job this past weekend. I couldn't put it down, true to the history I have with E.L. Konigsburg books. And when I was done, I wanted more, as I always do.

Margaret Rose Kane, twelve years old and brilliant, goes to a summer camp when her parents go on an archeological dig in Peru--the third most preferable option for her summer. First, she wanted to go to Peru, the second, to spend time with her uncles Alex and Morris at 19 Schuyler Place, but neither of these options was afforded her, so off to camp it was. Eventually, after a few rough days at camp with a cabin full of girls who have it out for her, Margaret Rose is rescued by her Uncle Alex and taken back to Schuyler Place, where she learns of a terrible secret. The three beautiful and magnificent towers in the uncles' backyard—built over 45 years and consisting of pipe, glass, clock faces, and ceramic pendants—one of the things Margaret loves most—are being demolished. Unwilling to stand by and let such a crime be committed, she begins her work at saving these works of art by enlisting some unexpected help.

Konigsburg owns two Newberry medals for a reason: she's brilliant, undeniably and unequivocally. The first reason for this is that her characters are wonderful and memorable, people you can relate to and people you want to become your best friends. Margaret Rose provides for the reader both of these through wit, determination, and, above all, love. Margaret's heart goes out to her uncles, to their structures, and to Jake, the handyman/artist, and your heart will go out to her in return. The many different ways in which her character stretches is amazing and in addition to that, she feels real. She acts and speaks like a true twelve year old. And, honestly, the reason I first fell in love with this book is the portrayal of Uncle Alex in the opening chapters. He is clever and sneaky and fantastic and I wish I had a relative like him.

The second thing Konigsburg excels at in this book is the way it is told. Not linear, like most MG novels are, but rather more like a spiral, each time the circle is repeated with the events a little more is revealed, the story grows, and it continues. The way she plays with language reveals a certain cleverness about the author as well as her main character, telling specific parts of the narrative by breaking down phrases in previous sentences as a way of explanation. Konigsburg and Margaret also play with words and their definitions, which both aids the story and the learning of the reader.

Perfect for its age group, middle graders, but not to be overlooked by those who are older (much like myself), this book is beautiful, heart-warming, quirky, brilliant, and addictive. My God, is it addictive, but in a wonderful way. I highly recommend this novel to dreamers, lovers of both art and the English language, fans of dynamic main characters, and all of you who fell in love with Konigsburg's previous books.


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