Glass Dreams / Helen Laycock
The death of any close relative is life altering, but for Jake, it doesn’t stop there when, after his grandmother’s death, he discovers a box that holds the answers to his past, present, and future. With little else, he runs away from orphan life to the only other option: Fantazi’s circus; and is drawn into a world of excitement and danger.
Prose / Structure
“Jake knew it was finally time. Time to grow up. Time to take responsibility.” (p.1)
From this short opener, Glass Dreams wastes no time disrupting the main character, Jake’s world, sending us along with it. However, despite the immediate disturbance, no scene is left dashed or poorly drawn. It is written with an unbelievably terse and efficient style. There is not a single word that does not add just enough to the picture without weighing too heavily. Many authors lay on far too many adjectives or descriptive paragraphs dragging out the plot, drawing it to a standstill. Here, Laycock does not. Even her brief scene of the orphanage to which Jake is subjected is just long enough for us to understand that life there is not good. If its occupants don’t pick on you, the caretakers forget you.
Some of the most powerful lines come from her similes—sharp and vivid. For example:
“He really just wanted to blurt out, ‘My Grandma’s dead’, but he knew that when it came to it, the words would stick like pebbles in his throat.” (Chapter 1)
“His hands clenched and his arms were like those of wooden soldiers, glued straight onto his sides.” (Chapter 4)
That being said, no book is without its problems.
A little over halfway through, the story begins to move forward when Jake is told the dark secret of the circus he has joined. Sadly, from this point on each chapter is no longer a richly drawn scene, but many scenes dashed together. Where in the beginning, each episode is full and well told; the latter half is a bit rushed and not so thoroughly unpacked. And for this reason can leave the reader a bit saddened only because the story started out so wonderfully.
As regards to characters, Jake is loveable and endearing to the reader soon after the start and is easily relatable in a very tangible way. Who hasn’t lost a relative or something dear to them? The reader roots for him fully and the world only opens up more as we meet Khala, a young circus girl, pretty but full of gusto; and the prize character, Cedric, a smart-aleck dwarf with a hankering to throw knives. He lights up every scene he’s in with his Chihuahua, Audrey.
owever, again, a weak point befalls the main opposing character, our antagonist, Gino. He is the circus master—cruel and greedy—a performer in his own right as a strongman, yet all of his clout seems to stem from actions in the past, bad deeds told to us from Khala or her mother. Little is given to us to understand the true severity of his character or to see the real monster he is purported to be. When it comes to bad guys, a little more vicious is always better.
This book deserves four stars for its amazing beginning and well-imagined world. It is so light despite its dark topics, never treading too far into the morbidity other books of the same nature may do. It is fun, and when it comes to middle grade books, that’s what they should be and this book succeeds in that respect. Besides that, it is a quick read, taking me less than three hours over three days, so it is a wonderful short trip into another world.
If you are interested, you can find Glass Dreams here.
And more about the author, Helen Laycock, at her Amazon page, here.