Title: The Books That Devoured My Father
Author: Afonso Cruz
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Number of Pages: 100
WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS
This book has SO much potential, I loved the premise but the author didn’t deliver on it at all. Ultimately, the best thing about The Books That Devoured My Father was its admittedly awesome title. I can’t imagine this appealing much to kids (or adults) at all, but children with a non-American sensibility would like it better? Anyway, this book is just weird, and not in a good way.
The main character, Elias, is a preteen boy whose bookworm dad literally got sucked into the world of literature because he read so much. Elias never knew his dad, but his grandmother gives him the key to his dad’s attic library as a kind of rite of passage for the boy. Elias also immerses himself in the books and searches for his father.
With the main character from The Island of Dr. Moreau (who’s turned into a dog) as his companion, Elias explored the worlds of Fahrenheit 451, Crime and Punishment, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (out of the books that play major roles in the story, the only one I’ve read is Fahrenheit 451– much, much better than this book.)
There’s no sense of danger or immediacy to these ‘adventures.’ They’re very vague. There’s a really weird subplot about a fat diabetic kid called Bombo who’s friends with Elias. Bombo is an awkward kid who’s obsessed with Chinese proverbs and Elias isn’t a very good friend to him, to say the least.
Elias and Bombo like the same girl and when Elias jealously humiliates Bombo in front of the girl, Bombo commits suicide by intentionally eating enough sweets to put himself in a diabetic coma. Then the book just ends with Elias’ shame and guilt as an older man, remembering what a great person Bombo was.
He just abandons his search for his father and the fantasy plotline is left totally unresolved. So what is this book really about? Don’t make fun of fat kids or they’ll eat themselves to death? It was so weird and unsatisfying, and the main child character was unconvincing and unsympathetic. I would not recommend this book to anyone but at least it’s short. You could easily finish it in about half an hour so if you’re curious I’d say go for it.