As anyone who’s familiar with my work knows, I’m a fan of alternate realities, so the premise of THE PARADISE TRAP caught my attention as soon as I read the blurb. I’m happy to say it fulfilled all of my expectations and then some. I couldn’t put this book down because I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next. It’s the kind of book that will appeal to a wide variety of readers and definitely to both boys and girls. Here’s the description:
Marcus doesn’t even want to go away for the summer. And his mum’s fond memories of Diamond Beach turn out to be nothing like reality. This could be his worst holiday ever … But things quickly become a lot more interesting when Marcus discovers the hidden cellar under their smelly old caravan. There, he and his new friends the Huckstepps find themselves touring a string of bizarre fantasy worlds filled with giant pink cats, stranded holiday-makers and walking, talking fairground rides, in a place where dreams quickly turn into nightmares. It’s a wild, exhilarating ride that will lead Marcus straight to oblivion unless he can escape the trap that’s been laid for him.
1. The alternate realities – I’ll just go ahead and start with those since I’ve already mentioned them. The idea is that the doors lead to each person’s dream vacation, a place they’ll never want to leave. Here’s a taste of one of them:
“A wave of perfumed air hit Marcus with the impact of a hurricane-force wind. At the very same instant, his ears were assailed by hysterical barking as the dog in his arms began to thrash around madly.
Then he saw that Coco was being addressed by a giant pink cat.
‘We’ll begin with a full-body pamper session, incorporating a five-senses therapy approach,’ the cat continued. Standing on its hind legs, it was almost as tall as Coco. It had golden eyes and a silver bow around its neck.”
Obviously this vacation belongs to one of the moms. You’d think the giant cats would give her a clue she shouldn’t go in …
2. The adventure – Marcus and his friends jump from one frying pan into another. About halfway through the book I thought, “They’re about to escape. What’s going to happen in the rest of the book?” How wrong I was. Catherine Jinks does an excellent job continually dangling their freedom and then snatching it away. Every time I believed it was about to happen, even toward the end when I should have known better. Well done, Ms. Jinks. (Just realized this one’s a bit spoilerish, but I promise you’ll feel the same way.)
3. The parents – It’s rare to find a middle grade book in which the parents are part of the adventure, but that’s the case here, and I really loved that part of it. And they’re not bumbling idiots, either! Each parent involved–both Huckstepps and Marcus’s mom, Holly–has his or her own strengths and weaknesses that contribute to the situation. The only one who’s a bit caricatured is Mr. Huckstepp, but even that’s done in a friendly way.
4. The craziness – Here’s a book where you have no idea what will happen next and it keeps you reading. It’s a mystery in the sense that you’re trying to figure out what’s behind everything, but there’s really no way to predict what will come next in the book. Talk about imagination. I just had to sit there and laugh at some of the things that happened to these characters. So much fun!
5. The hero – Despite the rather large group that goes around in this book–Marcus, his mom, the four Huckstepps, and someone who joins them along the way–Marcus remains the hero throughout the story. He’s the one who figures out what’s happening and how to maneuver through the magic. While the other characters give input, he’s the true leader, and it’s done in such a way that it doesn’t take away from the other characters either. They’re still contributing, but he’s calling the shots. I really appreciated that.
So what would your dream vacation be? I’ve already done mine–a trip to London, Paris and Edinburgh. Would you want to be stuck in it forever?
For querying authors, Catherine Jinks is represented by Margaret Connolly & Associates, an Australian literary agency.