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The Title of This Post Is Secret - The Book of the Celestial Cow

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July 15th, 2009


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01:03 am - The Title of This Post Is Secret
So on a whim in Seattle, I picked up The Name of This Book Is Secret, by Pseudonymous Bosch. I am not in the habit of randomly buying books in bookstores, but habits were made to be broken. But I was taken in by the fact that the first page read, "WARNING: DO NOT READ BEYOND THIS PAGE!" And that the next began, "Good. Now I know I can trust you." And that the first chapter was completely censored because the narrator didn't want to give me any details about, say, who the characters were and where they lived. It was quite amusing.

The book concerns Cass, a survivalist who never leaves home without her backpack full of such important things as rope, a compass, and bubblegum, and Max-Ernest, a very logical boy who has trouble telling a good joke. These eleven-year-olds stumble upon the Symphony of Smells, an assortment of scents labeled as musical instruments. If this sounds like synesthesia to you, then you're ahead of the game. A kids' book with synesthesia as a plot point, how cool is that?! The Symphony of Smells belonged to a dead magician, and after they discover his notebook, they're swept up in the quest for the Secret! (No, not that one. The good one, the one that lets you live forever and stuff.) Word games, anagrams, coded messages! It's good times.

The story proper is about what you'd expect. Cass and Max-Ernest, strangers at first, bond and become friends during their adventure, although it's done rather well and doesn't take the easy way out. They learn more about the magician, get themselves in trouble, encounter a plot twist or two, and get themselves into more trouble. You know how these things go.

The real fun, of course, is in the narration. Bosch tells the story to the reader, frequently giving the reader suggestions on how to view a particular scene or helpfully giving more background information or admitting that he made something up. And the book is structured as if he's telling you the story right then, so he will hesitate before advancing to a particularly dire section or refuse to tell you something or tell you to look up a word. The intended audience, though, is obviously a younger crowd, who may be getting their first taste of metafiction, not having read House of Leaves. That isn't to say that an adult can't enjoy it (obviously, since I did), but I would especially recommend it for kids. There are also cute drawings that introduce each chapter.

The snarky narrator is reminiscent of what little I know of Lemony Snicket; I haven't gotten around to reading A Series of Unfortunate Events yet (so many books!), so I can't really compare the styles. But I suppose it's only appropriate that as I neared the end, I got the sneaking suspicion that...yes, I had stumbled into a series. Dammit! I mean, as I neared the end, I actually did hope that there was a sequel because I wanted more adventures with Cass and Max-Ernest, who are great characters, but I didn't realize the book wasn't completely stand-alone when I bought it. The second book is called If You're Reading This, It's Too Late! Oh, Pseudonymous Bosch. You're so adorable! There's a third book on the way, apparently called This Book Is Not Good for You. And now I have to read them to find out what the goddamn Secret is! Oh, YA metafiction, why do I find you so entertaining and amusing? And at six bucks a pop, I can actually collect you in paperback.

Booklist called the book "Equal parts snarky and delightful," which I think is an apt description. It's snarky! It's delightful! Why wouldn't you want to read it?
Current Mood: annoyedannoyed
Current Music: Filter - The Wake
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(15 memoirs | Describe me as "inscrutable")

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:cerulgalactus
Date:July 15th, 2009 08:21 am (UTC)
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Curse you YA series, and your eminent readability.

Once you finish that series, you should check out the Guild of Specialists trilogy by Joshua Mowll (get them in hardback if you can, because they are brilliant that way).
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:July 15th, 2009 03:06 pm (UTC)
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I haven't heard of that one. What's it about? I've also been told I'd enjoy the Percy Jackson series, which does sound fun.
[User Picture]
From:teapot37
Date:July 15th, 2009 03:37 pm (UTC)
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My sister has been listening to the Percy Jackson books on CD - she's on book 2 right now. From what little I've heard, it's an interesting conceit.
[User Picture]
From:cerulgalactus
Date:July 15th, 2009 10:49 pm (UTC)
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It's a YA action adventure series set in 1920s Asia. Typical plot: young kids looking for their missing parents get involved in all sorts of world changing shenanigans and tangle with people both good and bad.

The books have all sorts of fold out maps and blueprints and 'old' photos and dossiers in them as well.
[User Picture]
From:punzerel
Date:July 15th, 2009 01:52 pm (UTC)
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Pseudonymous Bosch

Hee!

It sounds deeply delightful and right up my alley (and pellucere's as well, really). I will seek it out immediately. Also, it does sound similar to Lemony Snicket - you should library those!
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:July 15th, 2009 03:07 pm (UTC)
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I should! Especially now that it's all done.
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From:shpyum
Date:July 15th, 2009 04:04 pm (UTC)
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This sounds an awful lot like the Mysterious Benedict Society, which I HIGHLY recommend.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:July 15th, 2009 04:11 pm (UTC)
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I think Amazon also recommended that!

Geez, too many booooooks.
[User Picture]
From:chrryblssmninja
Date:July 15th, 2009 06:37 pm (UTC)
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oh hey I was wondering about that book
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:July 15th, 2009 06:38 pm (UTC)
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Oh were you?
[User Picture]
From:chrryblssmninja
Date:July 15th, 2009 06:40 pm (UTC)
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several months ago, but still, I was wondering about it
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:July 15th, 2009 06:51 pm (UTC)
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Well, now you know! I just came across it in a bookstore, and it looked cute, so I picked it up. It's fun.
[User Picture]
From:latropita
Date:July 17th, 2009 04:53 am (UTC)
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YA lit! Stop being so intriguing and making me want to read you!
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:July 17th, 2009 04:57 am (UTC)
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I'm not sure whether this is YA lit or children's lit. I mean, the protagonists are eleven-year-olds, and the narrator speaks to you as if you are closer to eleven than a teenager. But "children's lit" seems so much more...kiddie and less respectable.
[User Picture]
From:latropita
Date:July 19th, 2009 12:05 am (UTC)
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True! It is complicated. I'm mostly rueing everything because I have like, four series I am trying to read because they all sound super awesome.

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