✰✰✰✰½ The Cravitz family moves around a lot, and it's with some trepidation that thirteen year old Josephine finds herself in Awkward Falls, a small town in northern Canada. After all, who wants to live in an small, old town that smells like sauerkraut? It isn't long before Josephine stumbles upon a mystery in the gloomy house next door.
The current occupant, Thaddeus, is a boy who conducts his own mad scientist type experiments and resurrects dead pets while he waits for his parents to return. But the story gets even weirder. Awkward Falls is soon on the alert when cannibal Fetid Stenchley escapes from the Asylum for the Dangerously Insane. Years ago Thaddeus' grandfather was murdered by Stenchley, who worked as a lab assistant. Now that Stenchley is on the loose, he has nowhere to go but to the only place he knows as home.
With time running out and danger around every corner, Josephine, Thaddeus, an automaton, and a talking cat must join forces to solve the mystery of Thaddeus' lineage and escape from Stenchley's evil plans. The Orphan of Awkward Falls is a fun and entertaining adventure filled with action. In addition to the darkness of the story, I especially enjoyed the contrast between Josephine's healthy vegan lifestyle and Thaddeus' candy filled one - clever!
The Bottom Line: This quirky mystery is full of gruesome fun. With the peculiar characters and the themes of friendship and family, Keith Graves' first novel is a winner. It's the perfect read for teens who love books that are a bit unusual with some gore thrown in for good measure. Graves' black and white illustrations are fantastically dark and add to the story. In fact, the book cleverly begins and ends with the illustrations rather than text. This quick paced read is highly recommended for teens in grades 8 and up as well as for adults who like reading something just a little different and morbid. Note: According to the publisher, this book is recommended for kids ages 8 to 12. However, due to some of the gore and violence depicted in a few scenes, it might not be suitable for younger kids who are a bit squeamish or sensitive.
Details: The Orphan of Awkward Falls by Keith Graves. Hardcover published by Chronicle Books LLC in 2011. 256 p. ISBN: 9780811878142 Note: I received a complimentary copy from Chronicle Books in exchange for a review. This was made possible by the Early Reviewer program at LibraryThing.