The Book of Dares for Lost Friends may also be lost

"The Book of Dares for Lost Friends" by Jane Kelley is a children's book for ages 8-12 that centers around two best friends and their new adventures and struggles as they begin middle school.   "Would you dare . . . to undo a spell? To save your friend?"   That is the premise of this novel - a mix of magic and friendship.  Sounds promising, don't you think?

With topics as friendship, trying to fit in, going through parents' divorce and rebellion, one would see the potential that spills out from a cute cover font, nice picture and catchy synopsis.  Unfortunately, it falls short on the very storyline throughout.  There's a sense of mysticism throughout the book, with the talking cat, Mau, the Captain and Taz...etc, all just conveys a mystery waiting to be explored and solved.   However, even by the end of the novel (and trust me, it was not an easy read, surprising, considering it's for a younger crowd), there are multiple unanswered questions popping up in my mind.  Does Ms. Kelley hope to create a series of this novel, and therefore withheld some background stories and explanations for future books?  Whatever it is, the story was a mystery, the characters were under-developed and not at all connected through their dialogues.  And as for their dialogues, it does not sound like someone going to middle school (or in the case of Taz, no school at all) would say.

Overall, I'm quite disappointed with this novel, since I'm a fan of fantasy children's novels.  Does it evoke imagination if I were within the target age group? I'm not sure; but for someone my age, it falls short on many levels - from plot, to personal value and usage of fantasy elements to resolving unresolved matters.  Lost it is for me.

NOTE:  I received a complimentary e-copy proof (prior to final edits for printing) from the publisher, Macmillan Children's Publishing Group for an honest review.



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