Grant, Holly. The League of Beastly Dreadfuls28 April 2015, Random House Books for Young Readers
Copy received from the publisher
When Anastasia's father and hypochondriac mother are injured in a vacuum cleaner accident, she is spirited away by her "great aunties", Prim and Prudence, to their home, the former St. Agony’s Asylum for the Criminally Insane, which has somehow retained its Victorian qualities. The great aunts (who don't dress like any 80 year olds I know) keep Anastasia fed with Mysterious Lumps and make her sleep in a damp bedroom where there are horrifically scary noises. Soon, Anastasia decides to investigate on her own and comes across Quentin and Ollie, boys with special talents who are also being held hostage by the strange old ladies. Eventually, the Baron von Bilgeworth, Mouse Destroyer Extraordinaire shows up with a note from Anastasia's school librarian, Miss Apple, and Anastasia learns many things about the odd aunties, her family past, and the boys who have become her friends.
Strengths: This certainly was very well written, with clever turns of phrase, good pacing, and interesting characters. The illustrations were also unique and attractive. There was a nice twist at the end, and the series will probably go in a more interesting direction after this book, which just set the stage for Anastasia's adventures.
Weaknesses: So. Hard. To. Read. On a personal level, any book that calls me "Reader" and has that whole Lemony Snicket pretense of defining words for me makes me want to hurl it out the window. The beginning, with her unpleasant mother and her horrific school day that starts with Anastasia falling in the mud, didn't make me want to continue reading.
What I really think: I would buy this if I still had readers for Lemony Snicket. Since that series has gone out of favor, I will placate the few readers I do have who want creepy tales of Victorian orphans with Barbara Brooks Wallace and John Bellairs.
Others like it more than I do:
Middle Grade Mafia
Waking Brain Cells