The Little Secret by Kate Saunders

When Jane is invited to spend her summer vacation with her new—but admittedly odd—friend, Staffa, it feels like a dazzling daydream. Jane is lured by the promise of beautiful gowns as delicate as cobwebs, fancy parties as elegant as castle balls, and more fun than she can possibly imagine.

But there’s something menacing about the gleam in Staffa’s mother’s eyes. Something not-quite-right about the long drive over the hills of Scotland. Something strangely alluring about the mysterious, glowing box she is told she must never open. Never, ever, for any reason . . . Until, of course, it is opened on her behalf.

If Jane goes home with Staffa—if she enters the world of the box—will she be trapped forever? Or will she become every girl’s secret idea of a princess?

Description taken from Goodreads. 

This book is insanely creepy at times, like a less intense version of Coraline and Coraline had a friend who dragged her into the world of the Other Mother.

But at the same time, it’s also whimsical and fun. Very elegantly pulled off, which, as Lauren Miller wrote in FREE TO FALL, “made up more and less of it’s significance.”

I think more than anything else, what really caught my eye in reading this story was the elements to it all. Like I said, it can be creepy for a children’s book, but nothing that a fifth or sixth grader wouldn’t brush off. This adventure is a lot of fun, taking Jane through a magical world that she could never have experienced otherwise. In this sense, I loved what Saunders did with this story. There’s so much to the adventure that adds to it, but also takes away from it.

I think that the one character that shined in this story was Staffa’s mother. In the end though, it was hard to really love any of them. Jane was bland and Staffa was awesome, but I felt like she was ruined in the end because of how Jane forgave her so easily. What didn’t work for me in Staffa’s mother was that I kept relating her to a weaker version of Coraline’s Other Mother. Who, if you don’t know about Coraline, you’re really better off not knowing.

However, the adventure and how Jane grew from a completely plain, one-dimensional character to what she became in the end, I really did appreciate the adventure and the things she went through were a lot of fun to read about. The pace is a little slow which might be challenging for some young readers, but if they are willing to push through a few dry parts, they’ll be in for a grand adventure. In exchange for not really building up to a point like most middle-grade and YA books, it spreads out small points that keep the excitement up. It was different, but I also liked that difference.

Overall, this book was very charming. I wanted to see certain things spread out and others not so much so pacing was an issue for me as well as a few of the characters, but as for the adventure in general, plot and themes, this book was entertaining and fun. 3 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 240


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