Far Far Away
Far Far Away
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Tom McNeal
ISBN 9780375849725
Knopf/Random House, 2013.
5 stars
Keywords: adventure brothers-grimm fairytales far-far-away friendship ghost-story mystery suspense tom-mcneal

Far Far Away
by Tom McNeal

This highly imaginative spin on the Brothers Grimm tales casts the ghost of Jacob Grimm in the role of godfather to a contemporary teenage boy.

Jacob Grimm does not understand why, upon his death, he was not immediately greeted by his brother Wilhelm, whose death preceded his own. Instead, Jacob finds himself in a kind of purgatory for "those who are agitated and uneasy." In the village of Never Better, Jacob finds a calling in protecting 15-year-old Jeremy Johnson Johnson. Jacob narrates the novel, and Jeremy is his hero.

McNeal (who, with his wife Laura McNeal, has co-authored Crooked; Crushed; and Zipped) strikes an impressive balance between a small town setting with modern amenities and a timeless quality in a society that predates cell phones and computers. Kids still play monopoly and pull pranks, such as the one attractive and adventurous Ginger Boultinghouse convinces Jeremy to pull on the town's baker. Jeremy can hear ghosts, and McNeal exploits the comic possibilities. Jacob gives helpful hints to Jeremy on his exams, and advice (which Jeremy often ignores, when it comes to Ginger). The author flaunts his bounty of Grimm facts when Jeremy chooses fairy tales as his specialty for the TV quiz show Uncommon Knowledge, and again at a much darker hour, when Jeremy, Ginger and another boy from town get kidnapped.

McNeal structures the novel like a fairy tale, and the overriding sense of danger lurking like a deep forest surrounding the village will keep readers glued to the edges of their seats.

This review first appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers.
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