The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls by Claire Legrand is one of those books that I added to my TBR, but felt no urgency to read. Then one day I saw it on display at the library and thought: now's as good a time as any. But soon I was swamped with other things to read and I may have returned it unread if Shelver hadn't read it and started talking about how wonderful it is. So I kept it around, renewed it twice, and finally found the time to read it two days before it was due back. Yes. It is one of those reads that had me wanting to smack myself for not reading it sooner.
Victoria hates nonsense.
There is no need for it when your life is perfect. The only smudge on
her pristine life is her best friend Lawrence. He is a disaster—lazy and
dreamy, shirt always untucked, obsessed with his silly piano. Victoria
often wonders why she ever bothered being his friend. (Lawrence does
But then Lawrence goes missing. And he’s not the only one.
Victoria soon discovers that The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls is
not what it appears to be. Kids go in but come out…different. Or they
don’t come out at all.
If anyone can sort this out, it’s Victoria—even if it means getting a little messy.
Victoria is not a likeable little girl. She was probably even less likeable to me due to the cringe-worthy way she had of reminding me of the more unpleasant aspects of my personality. Still, I love a character you can't help but like despite their unlikeableness, and Victoria is certainly one of those. She is an ambitious type-A perfectionist, who wants to conform the world and people around her to her standards. She is also a questioner though, and this is what makes her a hero. She will not settle for easy answers. She must know the truth at all costs. Lawrence, on the other hand, is one of those boys who is brilliant in a lazy way. (And we all know how much I love those.) He is exactly the sort of boy Victoria needs in her life. One who will disrupt her order, and make her see that it's okay to laugh too loudly and not always be perfect. Which is why her life is devastated when he disappears. Their dynamic is a special one, familiar to be sure, but special. I enjoy how Legrand made it complicated the way boy/girl friendships are when your 12. It was wonderful how they needed both of their strengths to win the day too.
The plot and setting of the book dazzled me the most though, and it isn't every day that I say that. This book is creepy. The wrongness of the town, the home, and Mrs. Cavendish seeps into every word and page leaving the reader feel an impending sense of doom the further in you get. The children make some seriously disturbing discoveries about what goes down in that house too. And then there are the bugs. Shudder. Yet it manages to maintain a humorous balance that keeps it from being too outright horrifying. As I was reading I couldn't help but think of the kids I know who would love it and imagine their reactions. It is going to be a hit with my students I'm sure. In many ways it reminds me of Roald Dahl minus a lot of the issues I find problematic with his books. I also think it's better written.
Anyone who enjoys being entertained with creepy (and slightly gross) horror that's not too over the top who love this book. I sure did.