Friday, June 10, 2016

A Homeschool Coffee Break Book Review - The Glass Castle

A Homeschool Coffee Break Book Review - The Glass Castle by Trisha White Priebe and Jerry B. Jenkins. Read our review for the Schoolhouse Review Crew @

I love a good story, and so does my daughter, so we were delighted to be able to review The Glass Castle by Trisha White Priebe and Jerry B. Jenkins. This adventure novel for readers age 10-14 is a recent release from Shiloh Run Press.

The Glass Castle {Shiloh Run Press Review}

A little background - Shiloh Run Press is one of the imprints of Barbour Publishing, which is a more familiar name to me, since they've been around since the 1980s, and their frontlist releases around 150 titles every year. And speaking of familiar names, I recognized the name of author Jerry B. Jenkins. He's the author of more than 175 books, including the well-known Left Behind series. Co-author Trisha White Priebe has also written several previous books, such as A Sherlock Holmes Devotional. She is an advocate for orphans, a retreat speaker, and assists her husband in youth ministry.

The Glass Castle is described as an action adventure novel for young readers, and combines mystery and suspense in a fantasy or medieval type setting. An aging king is concerned about who will replace him on the throne, and his new wife wants to give him an heir. But there's a slight problem . . . you see, thirteen years ago, the king's first wife did have a son, but no one knows what has happened to him. The new queen's solution is to get rid of all the thirteen-year-olds in the kingdom. (Thankfully, they are not being killed - this book is for tweens, after all!)

Avery is kidnapped and finds herself in a mysterious castle, with a lot of other thirteen-year-olds. Along with some new friends, Kate, Tuck, and Kendrick, she tries to find out the truth about why they are there, and wants to get all the children back to the homes and families they were taken from. At first Avery is unsure who she can trust, and doesn't believe that the "junior king" that the children elect has any real impact or would be able to help them regain their freedom, but she gets a huge surprise when the junior king, Tuck, chooses HER as his queen! Gradually, she develops leadership skills and puts her ingenuity and courage to work in her attempt to solve the mysteries, especially as she learns to rely on God.

There is a touch of romance in the story as well, and although it raised my eyebrows considerably when Kennady mentioned that Avery and Tuck were developing a relationship and there was talk of marriage, I realized that in context, the setting is reminiscent of Elizabethan England or something similar, where it was quite common for teens to be married. However, the relationship aspect of the story is completely innocent and clean, and the attraction based on noble character qualities.

The story starts out with a lot of excitement and suspense as Avery is captured and is trying to get her bearings in a frightening situation. As she starts figuring things out, the middle section of the book doesn't provide as much steady action, as the characters and setting are being developed. Then the excitement builds again near the end; and just when you think it's going to wrap up, you realize there's a cliff-hanger ending! And you'll need to wait until the second book, The Ruby Moon, is released in October 2016 to find out what's next!

The Glass Castle {Shiloh Run Press Review}
Kennady takes her time when she reads, so the slow action parts of the book seemed especially slow to her! She told me that although the reading level was fine for her, she felt that the story itself was better for a slightly younger audience. She is very nearly 15, by the way, so definitely at the upper edge of the target audience; and the excitement level she is used to is more like The Hunger Games, or Allegiant, and the Lord of the Rings or action hero movies.

She also related some thoughts about the characters. She found Kate frustrating because she appeared to know more than what she was saying, and avoided answering Avery's questions. She liked Tuck and thought he was a great role model type character, who tried to be a good leader and do the right thing. Ilsa is one of the secondary characters she did not like, as Ilsa is very jealous of Avery and mean to her after Tuck chooses her as queen. That sounded like a pretty true-to-life situation for teens in today's world, doesn't it? Jealousy and meanness certainly rears its ugly head when one girl feels slighted or thinks that a boy she likes prefers the company of another; and tweens and teens definitely struggle with misunderstandings and rivalries and all kinds of squabbles and hurt feelings. So the kids in The Glass Castle are not all that different from my kids and their peers!

What we liked best:

  • there are plenty of suspenseful and exciting scenes throughout the book as Avery unravels the mystery. She is often in dangerous situations. There were sections where the action seemed to drag, but eventually some new development would inject a thrill back into the story.
  • the relationships between the kids in the castle are fairly relatable. There's jealousy and rivalries, petty and more serious. There's a sweet young love developing, which stays completely clean. I appreciated that part of the story simply because it sort of acknowledges that even young teens have some powerful feelings, but stresses good character and honor.

What I need to mention:

  • Kennady went back and forth on whether she loved the story or was a bit ambivalent about it. As mentioned above, she liked the exciting parts but her attention drifted a bit during the slower sections. She took a longer time than I expected she would to read it (like it took her weeks of reading a little here and a little there), and sometimes would tell me "there's not much happening; it's too slow" but then would turn around and be anxious to finish it. 
  • There are some intense emotional scenes, and more than a few deaths, so keep that in mind for very sensitive kids, or if you're planning to use it as a read-aloud to younger kids. I think kids younger than 10 would enjoy the story, but depending on their tolerance for those types of scenes.
  • There's that cliff-hanger ending. I love a cliff-hanger that makes me eager to get to the next chapter or that makes me eager to get the next book in the series, but I also like to know ahead of time that there IS a next book in the series! Especially if I have to wait awhile before it's available. 
Our bottom line: Although The Glass Castle didn't provide breathless page-turning reaction for Kennady, we've enjoyed reading it, and my impression is that if she'd been 12 instead of almost 15, she would have absolutely devoured it. We both recommend it as a family read-aloud, as the story itself has an appeal that is broader than the 10-14 target age; and Kennady felt that it would be more exciting and interesting to listen to a good reader tell the story to a small group of listeners.

The Glass Castle {Shiloh Run Press Review}

Would you like to explore The Glass Castle? Here's what you need to know:
Pricing: The 256-page book is available for $12.99 in hardback, ePub, and Kindle editions.

Recommended Ages: Young readers, aged 10-14.

You can follow Shiloh Run Press (Barbour Publishing) on Facebook or on Twitter @BarbourBuzz.

Visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog for more information and to read other reviews.
The Glass Castle {Shiloh Run Press Review}

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