The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls
Twelve-year-old Victoria Wright really lives up to her last name. She is tidy, clean and very nearly perfect. She only has one friend, but that’s okay, because that one friend, Lawrence, is really a project. Poor Lawrence can never seem to have his shirt tucked in, and he does horrible things like hum when he’s happy. Victoria has taken it upon herself to teach him to be more like her.
Victoria lives in Belleville, which suits her, because it’s generally lovely, clean and tidy, as is her school, the Academy. In fact, the only thing that makes Belleville less than perfect is the Cavendish Home, and even Victoria knows that it would be rude to complain too much about that. Mrs. Cavendish takes in troubled children who have nowhere else to go and helps them become better boys and girls. With an objective like that, Victoria has to respect her.
"THE CAVENDISH HOME FOR BOYS AND GIRLS is, simply put, awesome. A little scary, a little eerie, a little funny, a little sweet, it’s a spectacular debut novel."
But all of that changes when Lawrence disappears. Victoria stops at his house in the morning so that they can walk to school together, as always, but his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Prewitt, inform her that Lawrence is visiting his grandmother. That wouldn’t be so strange, except that it’s a school day. And Victoria notices that the Prewitts have blank-looking expressions. All the time.
Victoria would be willing to let it go, except that things get stranger and stranger, and more and more adults seem to be taken over by this strange blankness that makes them avoid her questions. Somehow, Victoria knows that Mrs. Cavendish must be involved, but when she goes to the Home and asks even more questions, things get even stranger and scarier.
THE CAVENDISH HOME FOR BOYS AND GIRLS is, simply put, awesome. A little scary, a little eerie, a little funny, a little sweet, it’s a spectacular debut novel. While certainly not for the faint of heart, it has a surprising amount of lighter moments that show how Victoria, though seemingly perfect, has a lot to learn about life, growing up, and friendship to get through the sticky mess in which she finds herself.
Adding to the fun are the wonderful black and white illustrations by Sarah Watts. Making excellent use of shadow and silhouette, the pictures contribute to the overall mood of the book, which is like a new sort of Gothic, supernatural mystery.
Kids who are fans of books like CORALINE and ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND will love THE CAVENDISH HOME. It would make a fun read-aloud for a classroom, and it comes out at a perfect time: right at the beginning of the new school year. Refreshingly different from the scores of books that are dystopian or the multiple series about popularity and beauty products, THE CAVENDISH HOME stands out. Victoria is a character to root for, and even if she’s more perfect than any of us ever will be, there’s something very real about her. She’s just been added to my list of favorite heroines.
Reviewed by Sarah Hannah Gomez on August 25, 2012