Max Starling's theatrical father likes to say that at twelve a boy is independent. He also likes to boast (about his acting skills, his wife's acting skills, a fortune only his family knows is metaphorical), but more than anything he likes to have adventures. Max Starling's equally theatrical mother is not a boaster but she enjoys a good adventure as much as her husband. When these two disappear, what can sort-of-theatrical Max and his not-at-all theatrical grandmother do? They have to wait to find out something, anything, and to worry, and, in Max's case, to figure out how to earn a living at the same time as he maintains his independence. This is the first of three books, all featuring the mysterious Mister Max.
I was really excited for this book! I did the thing where I judged a book on the cover and I love this cover. It’s awesome art and has some Lemony Snicket vibes. Plus, the premise sounds more awesome!
However, I’m sad to say that this book kind of fell short in some ways. So, as you can read in the lovely summary, life goes crazy for Max when his parents are kidnapped and one might think that the goal would be find to, you know, find the parents. Except it’s more about Max striving to make his way in the world sans parental figures. And making his way means getting a job and making money so he can afford to eat. These are worries and fears I have as an adult and not what I expected to be reading about a pre-teen boy. Not that that’s bad, in fact his little jobs were entertaining, but it was a touch mundane as a plot device.
At some point, I expected the missing parents to be brought up in a major way and that we would find them or at least head off into a perilous journey to find them… but *small spoiler* uh, no. Not really. But, what Max does is set up a decent team of friends for some possible journey in the next book. As far as I can find no other book has been announced, but that’s clearly where we are heading, given the very unresolved story arc. So in short, I kept waiting for something that never happened.
Other than that it was very entertaining. A kid using theater disguises to do a odd jobs, make friends and survive? I dug it! But it was still hard to get over my never-answered initial hitch. It’s a promising book, but be aware it’s (most likely) a series and the way it reads, a long series at that.
Similar recommendations: A Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket.
-Reviewed by Jennifer