Review: The Marvels by Brian Selznick

the marvels by brian selznick

Caldecott Award winner and bookmaking trailblazer Brian Selznick once again plays with the form he invented and takes readers on a voyage!

Two seemingly unrelated stories–one in words, the other in pictures–come together. The illustrated story begins in 1766 with Billy Marvel, the lone survivor of a shipwreck, and charts the adventures of his family of actors over five generations. The prose story opens in 1990 and follows Joseph, who has run away from school to an estranged uncle’s puzzling house in London, where he, along with the reader, must piece together many mysteries.

Description taken from Goodreads.


Better than The Invention of Hugo Cabret or even Wonderstruck? No. Still worth a read? Maybe. Even if you’re not one for obscure history retellings, The Marvels is still exciting and beautifully written/drawn. And don’t let the page count scare you away: more than half of the book is told in pictures. However, it isn’t for everyone, and I was one of the people it wasn’t for.

The Marvels was much less interesting than The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Honestly, that’s pretty much the bottom line. I never felt bored with it and I was stuck trying to unravel the mystery that was Hugo, his machine and the life he led. The story was special because connecting two seemingly (completely) unconnected storylines more than a generation apart can be difficult, but Selznick did it, and he did it extremely well.

In Marvels, the situation was different because we’d already seen what Selznick could do. And there was a much less engaging storyline to begin with. I was bored especially with the last half of this book, and I grew impatient waiting to see what the huge twist was. When it came, I was disappointed.

On a side note, if the entire novel had just been the first half of the novel (all illustrated, one time period, centers around theater), then this would be a completely different review. The second half felt forced and at that point, I was invested in the side characters who make up the background for this novel.

I would much rather stick with something like Wondla or a great graphic novel, especially for middle grade audiences, but I loved Hugo’s story and will still be recommending that one. Good for one time kind of read, features gay characters. 2 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 665 pages

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