04 January 2008
This was an absolutely brilliant book! Now, having gotten that out of the way, I can continue in a more professional manner.
Jack Perdu is a high school freshman with an intense interest in and talent for the Classics--Latin in particular. He lives with his widower dad who is an archeology professor at Yale University, friendless but happy with his books. When he suffers a near fatal experience (while trying to translate a tricky passage involving Orpheus and Eurydice, no less) his father sends him to New York City for an evaluation by a doctor friend. While waiting for his return train home, Jack meets Euri, an unusual girl--but one with whom he feels an instant rapport--who shows him a secret world beneath the city. It turns out that the secret world is actually The Underworld, and Jack has managed to cross into that world even though it is forbidden to the living. Having to constantly keep one step ahead of Cerberus and his sadistic keeper, Jack has three days to find his mother, before becoming trapped in death forever. While a knowledge of Greek mythology helps, particularly any of the stories involving the Underworld, author Katherine Marsh does an excellent job of setting the scene so that the reader understands the correlations between her story and the original source. It's never quite clear until the end of the story as to whether or not Jack is even still alive, but the authenticity of his experience is never in doubt. Marsh's descriptions of New York from a ghost-eye point of view made me think of scenes from Wim Wender's Wings of Desire--visions of a world that the living cannot see but that is unbelievably near. Jack and Euri are wonderfully drawn-out characters, and this is a page turner of the highest order. As the story drew near its conclusion I found myself starting to worry as to whether or not it would end as I hoped. And how would it end?! Read it and find out! The Night Tourist is a lovely, lovely, book. I'm putting it in YA, but junior high and strong middle school readers would and could enjoy it, too.