by Katherine Marsh
September 2nd 2008 (first published 2007) by Hyperion
isbn 1423106903 (isbn13: 9781423106906)
rating: 5 of 5 stars
Jack Perdu, a ninth grade classics prodigy, lives his with father on the Yale University campus. Smart and introverted, Jack spends most of his time alone, his nose buried in a book. But one winter evening, a near-fatal accident changes Jack's life forever. His father sends him to see a mysterious doctor in New York City--a place Jack hasn't visited since his mother died there eight years ago. In Grand Central Terminal, he meets Euri, a girl who offers to show him the train station's hidden places--the ones only true urban explorers really know about. Eight flights below the train station, however, Jack discovers more than just hidden tracks and mysterious staircases. He has stumbled upon New York's ghostly underworld. This, Jack believes, is his chance to see his mother again. But as secrets about Euri's past are revealed, so are the true reasons for Jack's visit to the underworld. Masterfully told, The Night Tourist weaves Classical mythology together with New York's secret history and modern-day landscape to create a magical adventure, full of unexpected twists and page-turning action.
There are so many reasons to rate books highly. And it's difficult to confine myself to a rating system that is limited by whole steps (one star, two stars, but not three and a half, for example.) So while Moby Dick gets five stars not only because I enjoy it but for its literary qualities, The Night Tourist merits five stars because it's one I can't wait to read to my children someday (when they're out of toddlerhood. And can sit still. So, what, when they're 20? Wait, am I off topic?)
I put Night Tourist on my wishlist after reading about it on Jen Robinson's Book Page. I scored an ARC on bookmooch, and took it to bed with me that night.
This is not a nighttime book. This book is fun. The action is described with such wonderful language that you can feel the chill of the New York winter, catch your breath at the dizzying heights of the tall buildings, delight in the friendship Jack develops with Euri as though you'd just made your own friend.
In addition to being fun, Night Tourist is well written. It's one of the smoothest books I've read in a while. The pace and the storyline, the characterization and the dialogue, the layers which peel away little by little to reveal the mystery of Jack's mother all flow perfectly - not so fast that the reader gets lost, but neither too slow that the reader gets bored. I found myself in the middle of the mystery without even realizing how I'd gotten there, but completely connected with Jack as he moves through the story.
Finally, the ending is tidy but not unbelievably so. It's nicely satisfying.
The book is recommended for teenagers, but I think that's because of the topic of death and because there are so many references to Greek mythology. Those references might be lost on younger students who haven't studied that subject. The story itself is ideal for imaginative older elementary and certainly for middle grades - and beyond. I enjoyed it immensely, and hope my kids will, too.