This novel definitely plays with form. It’s a novel, sure, but alongside the words it also has beautiful pencil sketches, snapshots from old movies, letters to the reader, and all manner of other interesting things. It’s a veritable tome, weighing several pounds and measuring at least 2 inches thick, but it’s a deceivingly quick read. On the novel’s website, you can view a slideshow of the opening sequence of illustrations you encounter when you open the book.
The story is a cute story of a young boy — orphaned, abused, and on his own. There’s some magic (we’re talking magician’s magic here, not the “magic” of magical realism), some romance, and some mystery & intrigue. It’s a sweet story, one that definitely tugs at the heartstrings. Hugo’s character is really quite lovable, and it’s the affection for him that drives much of the novel. Well, that and the mystery.
Did I mention that there was a mystery? Selznick weaves together an complex storyline that piques the reader’s interest and brings together some very interesting anecdotes in French film and train history. This sounds bizarre, and perhaps it is (as all curious stories are), but it’s enough to get your interest and keep it. As Hugo and his young friend try to figure out what’s happening with the adults in their life, the reader is sucked into the story. Overall, it’s a cute story for young adults that can be enjoyed by anyone with a sense of whimsy.
GOOD FOR: Anyone who enjoys a genre-bending book, fans of beautiful pencil illustrations, and readers who enjoy a nicely laid-out page design. Oh, and anyone addicted to clocks.
BAD FOR: People who don’t like picture books, readers who don’t buy happy endings, and anyone looking for a serious read.
COMPATIBLE WITH: Peter and the Starcatchers, The Z Was Zapped (for the illustrations), and The Alchemist.