Recommended for ages 12+
In September 1969, a rash of kidnappings in San Bernardino left parents terrified. The reign of terror ended some 100+ missing kids later, with the final disappearance being young teen Jack Sturges, who was riding bikes with his younger brother, Jim, at the time.
Forty-five years later, Jim has grown up and become a father, but the scars from Jack’s disappearance remain. His son, Jim Jr., grows up behind steel shades and locked doors, curfews and phone calls to police if he’s the slightest bit late. He’s not exactly big man on campus at school, either – his best friend, “Tub”, is bully fodder who lives with his grandmother and her legion of cats.
The thing is, weird things are starting to happen in San Bernardino all over again, and Jim’s right in the line of fire – no matter what his father does to keep him safe. Trolls aren’t fantasy, they’re a horrific reality, and Jim finds himself sucked into the world of the Trollhunters, where he and his band of fighters will come together to save San Bernardino, and possibly, the world.
How do you not read a YA book written by Guillermo del Toro? Especially when said book starts out with this:
“You are food. Those muscles you flex to walk, lift, and talk? They’re patties of meat topped with chewy tendon. That skin you’ve paid so much attention to in mirrors? It’s delicious to the right tongues, a casserole of succulent tissue. And those bones that give you the strength to make your way in the world? They rattle between teeth as the marrow is sucked down slobbering throats. These facts are unpleasant but useful. There are things out there, you see, that don’t cower in holes to be captured by us and cooked over our fires. These things have their own ways of trapping their kills, their own fires, their own appetites.”
I’m not versed in Daniel Kraus’ work, but that will change shortly. The two together have created what I hope is the first of an ongoing middle school/YA series that blends gratuitous gore, ooze, humor, and a strong story about family and what makes a family into a book you won’t want to put down. Trollhunters gives us action, a touch of horror – it is del Toro, after all – and a loving story of loss, rediscovery, and family. Reluctant readers? Give them this book, and they’ll be demanding more (and that’s when you introduce them to Hellboy comics, novels, and movies).
This book is great to give to boys, but there’s some serious girl power in here too. Jim Jr.’s crush, Claire, can hold her own against a school bully as well as against anything else the authors throw at her. Sean Murray’s illustrations are wonderfully gross and gooey, with dark and murky colors to fill out your imagination.
All in all, Trollhunters is a great mid-summer read. Don’t miss it! The only question I’ve got now is, when will we see the movie?