I do take notice when a book gets a starred review. The Children got a starred Kirkus review, so, even though I had passed on the author’s first novel, The Good House, I sprang for this one.
Clever is how I’d describe the dialogue. Smart is how I’d describe the author’s familiarity with blogs, online chat rooms, even old school, multi-generational New England families. The writing was quite good.
The content, though, made me wince. I have trouble caring about dishonest, self-absorbed characters. There were many of those in this book – including the main voice, who knows how to hack into most anything and is extraordinarily successful writing a “mommy blog” in which she plays a young mother with two young children, one of whom has a rare genetic disorder. In fact, this character has no husband, no kids. She is paid huge amounts of money by advertisers who don’t really care whether she’s for real or not, only that she has a large following. Greed is a major player throughout this book.
Publishers Weekly referred to keeping “the reader absorbed until the final, most shocking secrets are revealed.” First off, I wasn’t absorbed. Much of the dialogue went on too long without moving the story forward. Moreover, I didn’t find those “final, most shocking secrets” to be shocking at all. Likewise, another reviewer mentioned “a plot rich with unexpected turns.” I didn’t find the turns unexpected.
And the original Kirkus review, which referred to the book as a “deeply satisfying novel about how unknowable people can be” just mystifies me. The people in this novel weren’t unknowable at all. Nor, did I find the novel deeply satisfying.
I am sure that this book will hit national bestseller lists based on who the author is and how she is perceived. My review, though, is a warning against trusting hype. I would never write a book like this – which, indeed, may be why I don’t get starred reviews from Kirkus. And y’know, I’m just fine with that!