Dashner, James. 2008. The 13th Reality: The Journal of Curious Letters.
I wanted to love, love, love The 13th Reality. And for a while it seemed inevitable. From the very beginning:
"Norbert Johnson had never met such strange people in all of his life, much less two on the same day--within the same hour even. Odd. Very odd indeed. Norbert, with his scraggly gray hair and his rumpled gray pants and his wrinkly gray shirt, had worked at the post office in Macadamia, Alaska, for twenty-three years, seven months, twelve days, and--he looked at his watch--just a hair short of four hours. In those long, cold, lonesome years he'd met just about every type of human being you could imagine. Nice people and mean people. Ugly people and pretty people. Lawyers, doctors, accountants, cops. Crazies and convicts. Old hags and young whippersnappers. Oh, and lots of celebrities, too. Why if you believed his high-falutin' stories (which most people quit doing about twenty-three years, seven months, twelve hours, and three hours ago), you'd think he'd met every movie and music star in America. Though exactly why these famous folks were up in Alaska dropping off mail was anybody's guess, so it may have been a slight exaggeration of the truth." (1-2)Norbert isn't our main character. But he serves as a good introduction to the odd (and slightly wacky) adventures that are to come. That day in the post office, Norbert met a man and a woman. One good, one evil. Both odd as can be. The man, Master George, was mailing hundreds of letters. Our main hero (and a few of our sidekicks) is the recipient of one of those letters.
Here is our introduction to our hero, "Atticus Higginbottom--nicknamed "Tick" since his first day of kindergarten--stood inside the darkness of his own locker, cramped and claustrophobic." (11). Tick is picked on by the school bullies. And school would be a fairly miserable place for him if it wasn't for the teachers--one teacher in particular, Mr. Chu. He's got nerd tendencies (minus the greasy hair and glasses) and a birthmark on his neck. (He keeps a striped scarf around his neck 365 days a year.) He's socially awkward, of course, a good many seventh graders are, but he's a good hero-in-the-making. And that process begins when he receives a curious letter in the mail that was postmarked in Alaska. Someone writing him under the initials "M.G." Someone who is calling him to be brave and to accept a challenge and to help save the world and save lives. It's a call Tick is happy to answer.
The Thirteenth Reality is an interesting book built on a good premise. The idea that there are alternate realities and a way to travel between them is a good one. The idea that the villains from one alternate reality would want to try to dominate and/or destroy the others also is intriguing enough. This book is the first in a series. And I think that is part of the problem. What can sometimes happen in novels that are first in the series is that they serve more as a prologue to the series, a prologue to the action. It's all about setting things up, getting ready for the real adventures to start in subsequent books. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I disliked the novel. But I didn't love, love, love it either. For me, it suffered from a bit of uneven pacing. The beginning and the ending was strong, really strong. But in the middle, it was easier to lose interest. I'm not sure if kids would feel that way about it or not. Tick was waiting for the exciting adventures to start, and so were we. We were both waiting and waiting and waiting. And once the big day arrived, it was exciting again. And it was worth it, I think. I'm definitely interested in reading more from this series, from this author.