Middle Grade Book Review

The Anti-Book by Raphael Simon

Publication Date: April 6, 2021

Summary from NetGalley:

From the New York Times bestselling author of the Secret Series comes a darkly funny story about a boy who wants the world to disappear. This fantastical quest for comfort and belonging is perfect for fans of classics like The Phantom Tollbooth and Coraline.

Mickey is angry all the time: at his divorced parents, at his sister, and at his two new stepmoms, both named Charlie. And so he can’t resist the ad inside his pack of gum: “Do you ever wish everyone would go away? Buy The Anti-Book! Satisfaction guaranteed.” He orders the book, but when it arrives, it’s blank–except for one line of instruction: To erase it, write it. He fills the pages with all the things and people he dislikes . . .

Next thing he knows, he’s wandering an anti-world, one in which everything and everyone familiar is gone. Or are they? His sister soon reappears–but she’s only four inches tall. A tiny talking house with wings looks strangely familiar, as does the mysterious half-invisible boy who seems to think that he and Mickey are best buds. The boy persuades Mickey to go find the Bubble Gum King–the king, who resides at the top of a mountain, is the only one who might be able help Mickey fix the mess he’s made.

Full of humor and surprise, and slyly meaningful, this is a Wizard of Oz for today’s generation–a fantastical quest for comfort and belonging that will resonate with many, many readers.

ARC provided by Dial Books via NetGalley for an honest review.

Confession:

Have you ever felt like just making everyone go away? I certainly have, and I am sure many kids will be able to relate to Mickey just wanting to be left alone.

Mickey is having a tough time, his parents are divorcing, his sister is dating a boy that bullies him and he is just struggling to feel like he is accepted as he is. Mickey is certainly a boy that kids will be able to relate too. He is insecure and feeling lonely and misunderstood, and angry all of the time. So when he gets the anti-book it isn’t a huge surprise that he writes just about everyone and everything into it. Which of course is the start of his amazing and personal journey through the anti-world that he created.

If you are familiar with this author’s other books, the style will feel very familiar. It is full of talking to the reader moments and plenty of snark from his characters. The world building is very well done. I liked that the anti things and people represented their personalities in the real world. This book does have a very real Phantom Tollbooth vibe to it which was not lost on me as an adult, but not sure kids know that story as well today.

There are some very nice moments between Mickey and his sister that speaks to sibling relationships well. Sometimes sibling misunderstand each other or have falling outs, but they still love each other and eventually will find their way back to each other.

I really liked the story and the pacing was pretty good, although a bit slow in the middle. I loved all of the different areas of the anti-world and how they were mirrored in the real world. The characters and adventures that Mickey encounters are just scary enough to keep the kids engaged, but not too scary.

Overall I think this is a delightful book that will entertain many kids, while delivering a message of not giving up hope that you will find your place in the world and be accepted for who you are.

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