The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 39. A Middle-Grade Novel
Other Possible Prompts: 14. A Character with Superhuman Ability, 15. A Five-Syllable Title, 22. An Unlikely Detective, 37. Set in a Rural Area
I feel like my “Other Possible Prompts” section always looks the same…I appear to read some very similar stuff, haha. I picked up 100 Cupboards to fill my middle-grade novel prompt, but there’s also a backstory here! This novel was not a random choice, nor just one that sounded interesting…I’m pretty familiar with what’s popular in middle grade novels from my work at the library, but 100 Cupboards has additional meaning to me.
Henry York’s parents are missing, so he’s being sent to live with his Uncle Frank and Aunt Dottie for the summer in Henry, Kansas. Summer with his cousins is finally helping him taste some sense of normalcy from his own life, and letting him be a kid – but better yet, he’s discovered cupboards buried under the plaster in his attic bedroom. Slowly, painstakingly, scraping and picking away at the plaster, Henry and his cousin Henrietta discover ninety-nine cupboards that seemingly help them enter other worlds. The cupboards are doorways to somewhere else…but the thing about doorways is that things can come back through them, too – and that’s where the trouble begins.
When I was twelve, my grandparents gave me 100 Cupboards as a Christmas present. We almost always got at least one book for Christmas in those days, and N.D. Wilson’s novel was mine. I love the creepy cover and the horror look in its coloring. I recall reading it in the sixth grade and just absolutely loving it – this was roundabout the time I was finally becoming a reader, for real, primarily because I was picking up good books like this one instead of that weird regurgitated garbage we feed kids, ie. “sad animal story”, or “magic animal story where they’re weirdly human”, or “girly drama about a boy that reminds you about true friendship”. There’s nothing wrong with reading those and enjoying them, but I think they became so much of a fad when I was in school that I forgot to just try to read things I actually enjoyed. And oddly enough for a kid with anxiety, I loved horror. Now an adult with anxiety, I still love horror! And I think this is one of the first books that got me hooked on that.
I really enjoyed completing this prompt, and not just because the book was pretty decent. I think this one really gave me a blast from the past, and made me evaluate where my reading tastes originally derived from. I recalled very little of the story, so as it unfolded for me nearly ten years later, I enjoyed it just as much the second time. I thought it was so interesting to see one of those pivotal turns in my reading taste.
I did remember, however, this book being much scarier to twelve-year-old me than it was to twenty-one-year-old me. I found very little of this book truly frightening, but I can see why it may have felt ghostly and horrific to a younger version of myself. And that said, I still really enjoyed it. This is a good yarn, if you will, and I would actually love to know what happens next. I may try to squeak both sequels into my reading for the rest of the year, just to see what happens.
This book is also more fantasy than I typically read, in keeping with my last two reviews! I think you should always expect some fantastical element of something when reading a middle grade novel, but the depth of this fantasy also went much deeper than I recalled. Even as a kid I didn’t read a lot of fantasy; I never read Harry Potter and I wasn’t into the Warriors series…I was more likely to pick up science fiction, or realistic fiction. This novel held a much higher rating in my head prior to me getting to the last quarter of the book or so, actually, because it was about then that it got really wild and a little harder to follow. They’re trying to get you to read the sequel…but really they lost me quite a bit when it started developing further. It was just an interesting observation for me. As a child, I never read the sequels – so clearly I was not so entranced at that age either.
And as much as I enjoy reminiscing about my childhood reading habits, I’m writing this review as a twenty-one year old bibliophile, so not all of this should come from my twelve year old self. And as an adult, I have to say, this book is stellar. It’s well written, it’s got well-rounded characters, and there’s just enough to it to keep the pre-teen following the plot and the adult pretty interested. There’s just little specks of suspense here and there that I was absolutely living for.
I had so much fun with this prompt and reading this book, so I was really excited to share this one. I hope I didn’t bore you too much with my nostalgia!
Have a great week, friends!