|Pillage (c) 2009 by Obert Skye|
Beck Phillips goes to live in the quaint town of Kingsplot with his estranged uncle when his mother dies. There, he begins to uncover dark family secrets, and discovers a strange ability to get plants to do what he wants. Not only that, but when he goes exploring in places where he's been specifically told not to go (Beck has a thing about disobeying authority) he discovers another talent that he didn't know he had, but that is a bit more dangerous than being able to control plants. Of course it involves dragons.
Without giving away spoilers, the book is not one that dragon lovers would enjoy because of certain events in the book that were painful to witness. But it is well-written for its target audience, and young people would enjoy it.
For myself, I had a hard time liking Beck after the first scene. He wants to get out of a few days of school, and tries to do this by releasing a hive of bees into the school. Did he not consider that some students might be so allergic to bee stings that his doing so could be fatal to them? It might be realistic for a fifteen year old not to consider such consequences, but that fifteen year old isn't any more likable to me because of the lack of understanding such consequences. He knew enough to know it would cause difficulty and disruption, even pain to others, and that's enough to make him an unlikable character to me.
However, to the target audience, the opening scene could be very funny and enjoyable, and many readers would even be able to relate to Beck. After all, what high schooler or middle schooler wouldn't want to get out of school for a few days?
Like many books for young people, the adults in the book tend to be bumbling idiots, harsh bullies, neglectful, dismissive, or crazy. Something that usually turns me away from such books. But it wouldn't bother the target audience. After all, using such tropes leaves the way open for the young protagonists to step in and save the day. Which is what young audiences like.
The main conflict of the story seemed to take longer than it ought to develop, which might try the patience of its target audience, but there was enough action along the way to keep teens interested. There are twists and turns that I didn't anticipate, and that young readers would find delightfully frightening. These twists and turns are what helped me overlook the things I didn't like, and kept me interested in the story despite not being a member of the target audience.
The end leaves it obvious that a sequel is coming, yet wraps up the present conflict in a satisfying way.