Title: Down the Rabbit Hole
Author: Peter Abrahams
Release Date: January 1, 2005
“Ingrid is in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or at least her shoes are. And getting them back will mean getting tangled up in a murder investigation as complicated as the mysteries solved by her idol, Sherlock Holmes. With soccer practice, schoolwork, and the lead role in her town's production of Alice in Wonderland, Ingrid is swamped. But as things in Echo Falls keep getting curiouser and curiouser, Ingrid realizes she must solve the murder on her own -- before it's too late!”
I was super excited to read this. I'm totally into Lewis Carroll. And I love Sherlock Holmes. I expected based on the title and summary for a lot of the former with a sprinkling of the latter. What I got was a lot of Holmes (a lot), and a few annoying scenes where Ingrid tries to play the role of Alice in a local production (thanks to Kindle I know that Alice doesn't show up until after 35% into the book). Not only that, all of the Alice stuff is "unconventional", so it barely resembles the source material. I didn't need a retelling, but don't purposefully name the book after something and not even use it. I felt conned by the false advertising. As for the Sherlock Holmes stuff, she models her life on the guy, but then claims that he wouldn't care about math. Sherlock Holmes. Yep, he didn't care about math. Or science. Yes, he did work from observation and deduction but in the books he clearly emphasized logic, the scientific method, and mathematical precision. This mistake is only important because Ingrid is supposedly obsessed with Holmes, and uses him as the reasoning behind half of her actions.
If you can't guess from the tone of the previous paragraph: I did not like this book. The main character was supposed to be clever, but was really just selfish and stupid. She consistently avoids going to adults for help even when there is no reason not to. Once involving authorities actually would get her in trouble, she decides to take even more risks with even less thought of consequences. Plus, the bad guy was obvious from the very first scene he was in, so kudos on the observation skills Ingrid (she adored the guy).
The author also starts things that he doesn't intend to finish (at least not in book one). There are some weird hints that Ingrid might have some sort of special skill, even a power of some kind. A point is made of her exhibiting, noticing, and then dismissing her ability. She even gets in trouble at school because of it. Then... nothing--- so I was left hanging there. I don't care enough to read more and find out.
All of that might have still gotten the book three stars, because middle-grade books tend to be less complex and even YA books have adult-phobia. I mean, there were a few funny scenes mixed it with the bad ones. But where this really got to me was the casual and complete disregard for serious issues that the book includes for no reason at all. The next paragraph is a spoiler-y rant, because this just made me plain angry.
Ingrid's brother punches her. In the face. Hard enough that she bruises badly. She hides this from the one person who asks (her mother) and covers it with makeup. No one else asks, in fact they tell her she looks good wearing makeup. Ingrid and her brother don't talk about it. She uses it to blackmail her brother into making their parents think getting a dog was his idea, but that's it. No consequences, no discussion, no effects on Ingrid beyond surprise, because no one had ever hit her before. What kind of message is this for middle-grade readers? For anyone? WTF Peter Abrahams. And that's not all! It's alluded to by circumstantial, but obvious evidence (that shockingly slips past Ingrid), that her brother is on steroids. It's made clear that their father makes her brother feel pressured to succeed at sports and then the evidence starts to pile up. I assume the punch was meant to be a hint at his steroid use, but there are other ways. Have him flip a table. Have him throw a book at the wall. Have him shout or smash a mirror. Don't have him punch his younger sister and get away with it scott free. Just no. And while I assume the drug issue will be dealt with later in the series, there is no way it should be ignored within the book where a thirteen year old girl gets punched in the face.
Words To Live By
"You're born cute. Babies are cute. Not hard to guess why--- it's so everyone will forgive them for being such a pain. You grow a little older, and people say, "What beautiful hair," or "Get a load of those baby blues," or something nice that keeps you thinking you're still on the cuteness track. Then you hit twelve or thirteen and boom, they tell you that everything needs fixing. Waiting in the wings are the orthodontist, the dermatologist, the contact lens guy, the hair-tinting guy, maybe even the nose-job guy. You look at yourself in the mirror, really look at yourself, for the first time. And what do you see? Oh my god."
I thought this was young adult, but it is definitely middle grade. That said, I would not recommend this book to anyone in that age group. It sends some really questionable messages, but mostly it just isn't very good. I also would not recommend it to fans of Sherlock Holmes or to fans of Alice in Wonderland because they would likely be disappointed.