6 December 2011

Review 51: Operation Eiffel Tower by Elen Caldecott

“Lauren, Jack, Ruby and Billy live by the seaside with their mum and dad. But their parents are always arguing, and one day their dad moves out. Lauren and Jack are desperate to get their mum and dad back together, and hatch a plan to do just that. Let Operation Eiffel Tower commence! A brilliant story about four children (well three really, Billy is just a baby so can’t do very much) who are worried about their parents – and take action!”

Story: Simple but involving.
Protagonist: Blandly likeable, the older sister has a bit more character.

Writing: Effective if unexciting.

Story: Jack and his siblings have been suffering for months as their parents argue and fight. Despite hating the arguments, they are devastated with their dad moves into a local B&B. They decided their parents need a bit of romance and encouragement to sort their problems out and so set out trying to get their parents to Paris, the city of romance. There is very little else to the story, it is very much in the Jacqueline Wilson mould; easy to read, very few secondary plots and young people negotiating family issues. I would have preferred a little more focus on why Jack’s parents are fighting; there is no explanation of what is causing their split and I would have liked a little more time spent on Jack’s older sister. The finale of the book is a little unrealistic as they turn the local mini golf course into a makeshift Paris but I was glad that the way Caldecott resolved the family issues were not too wish-fulfillmenty.

Characters: It’s good to see a male protagonist in a book of this genre as family drama books for young adults tend to have female narrators. Having said that, I found Jack rather bland and couldn’t really tell you anything about his personality other than very generic things; he’s upset that his parents are arguing, his misses his Dad, he loves his siblings, he likes playing mini golf. Of course, this works to a certain extent as teenagers will find him easy to relate to as he doesn’t have any unique or weird characteristics. A classic example of this is Bella Swan in the Twilight novels; girls feel that they’re like here because she doesn’t really have any personality to speak of so it is easy to project your own personality onto her. This novel is a little more worthy than Twilight in that it has to be seen as a positive if children dealing with their parents splitting up can empathise with Jack and hopefully find that helpful. The children are all resourceful and determined which is appealing. They are well written but bland.
The parents are only vaguely sketched it – again I felt they were rather generic arguing parent characters. Mum is stressed and upset, Dad is quiet and calm but is the one who leaves – it’s all stereotypical and doesn’t really add much new to the genre or present much variation on a much-told plot. The character I found the most interesting was Jack’s older sister, Lauren who is struggling with being the eldest and dealing with her parents split and ends up shoplifting but this is never really dealt with in any depth as the story stays focused on Jack.

Writing: Caldecott is definitely a talented writer and the story zips along speedily and will definitely keep younger readers entertained and stimulated. The story and characters are well written just a little generic for my tastes; this would be a book I would happily recommend to various children but I don’t think it is anything extraordinary. It is a pleasant and easy to read story and I don’t have any complaints per se about it but for me I would have liked a little more depth and a little bit of something special to make it stand out from the multitude of family issue stories for young adults. Caldecott does manage to combine discussion of the more serious elements with some lighter moments making it a well thought out and nicely paced, if simple, story.

Cover Art and Title: The cover is a colourful, fun cover which fairly accurately represents the story although you might assume it was more of a caper adventure than a family story. Equally the title is a straight link to what happens in the plot.

Try it if you liked: The Illustrated Mum by Jacqueline Wilson or It’s Not the End of the World by Judy Blume

Final thoughts: A high quality, but simple, story which was very readable but would have benefitted from a little more depth.  It will go down well with fans of Jacqueline Wilson but doesn’t cross the divide into being particularly enjoyable for adults.

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