Review: Behind the Bookcase by Mark Steensland

Behind the Bookcase - Mark Steensland, Kelly Murphy

"Behind the Bookcase" was a charming read when considered as a whole. I loved the illustrations and the fact that it was an otherworld type story with a colorful cast of characters and creatures. Sarah's a 12-year old who arrives at her mother's creepy childhood home. Her grandmother passed away not long ago. Sarah's family cleans up the house in order to sell it. The house has many secrets, but notably, Sarah realizes there's another world beyond a bookcase that has a secret opening.

The story feels like an attempted smorgasboard of Alice in Wonderland meets "The Nightmare Before Christmas" meeting something that Neil Gaiman would probably do. Only...the intrigue in this book is much lower than any of the aforementioned influences.

Sarah gets lost in a world called "Scotopia," and meets a cat named Balthazat, a one eyed hand called Lefty, and a boy with only half a face named Jeb among others. I'll admit I was charmed by the overarching story and the encounters that Sarah has, but at the same time, I think the story moved more slowly than I would've liked. I think for the narrative as a whole, it didn't completely immerse me into the realm it built, but I liked the overarching conflict and the imaging of the characters for the most part. I just wish I'd been able to connect with it a little more than I did. The construction of the story was fine, the execution and immersion left a bit to be desired. It felt meandering and not as concise as it could've been. If it had, I think I would've enjoyed it a little more.

Overall, I think it works fine as a middle grade story and there may be some readers who appreciate what this has to offer. I just wish it'd pulled me in a little better into the respective narrative.

Overall score: 2.5/5 stars

Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher.