Saturday, August 1, 2015

Double Arc Review: Fuzzy Mud - Louis Sachar

Fuzzy Mud
Louis Sachar
Series: N/A
Genre: Middle Grade, Suspense, Contemporary
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Release Date: August 4th, 2015
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

I picked up an ARC of Fuzzy Mud at BEA after seeing it was by Louis Sachar, author of Holes and the Wayside Stories books. The book was definitely enjoyable and full of suspense, causing the reader to wonder what's happening throughout the novel and also appreciate the dynamic of the characters while its happening.

Speaking of character dynamics, I found the exploration of those in Fuzzy Mud to be quite interesting. For example, we have Tamaya Dhilwaddi, our main protagonist. Her walking-home-from-school buddy, Marshall, is the one who is with her when the dangerous, blister-causing "fuzzy mud" is discovered and a school bully, Chad, is chasing them. Chad gets a fistful of it to the face, with dangerous results, but Tamaya isn't let off the hook easily herself. All the characters learn and grow from their experiences dealing with the fuzzy mud and use it to benefit themselves and others in the future, which was something I liked about the characters. They handled their situation(s) well and used them as learning experiences.

Besides the character dynamics, the characters themselves were fun to read too, although very few points off for being slightly typical -- a little variation would have been nice. Regardless, they were very nice characters, who I enjoyed greatly. Tamaya was a girl who played by the rules at first, but came out of her shell a bit and started to go into the woods which led to the whole fuzzy mud incident in the first place. Chad is a bully who's just jealous. Sound like stuff you've heard?

They are interesting characters, though. I liked Tamaya's attention to detail and her sweetness and Marshall's inner conflict and overall they were all just fun to read about.

The story was just fun to read in general. I liked how the characters grew, how they explored, and it kept giving surprising twists and turns that make me change my mind from it being "fun" to read to it being "full of suspense" and "sympathetic." It was a good premise and a solid plot.

The writing itself was also a selling point. Sachar's wordplay is tough to describe, but he has a style that resonates through all his books so if you've read one, there's an idea of the way he commands the English language. It didn't seem dumbed down, as if the narrator was speaking to small children. It seemed like a person speaking to another person but in a very fluid, soothing sort of way. I personally highly enjoy his writing style. It didn't feel like I was reading a middle-grade book at times but in a way that if someone younger that me was reading the same portion of the book, they could get lost in it too, without feeling overwhelmed.

My only big issue is that at the end, too much is happening in not enough time. It's a short book, so I expected that either not that much would happen (like lots of exposition), or if it did, it would be a fast-paced book, and I was super cool with that. However, the entire book told the story up until this big climactic thing and then the last few pages are just aftermath page and more after aftermath page and then what's this a new Thing is happening let's spring on some more developments this is a good idea so it's all these things being thrown at you in the last few pages until finally it's over and you see why the end stuff was important but you also wonder if they could have planned that even a little better.

Besides the pacing being off though, I enjoyed the book, and I thought it was an entertaining read. I read it in one sitting and I honestly couldn't tell you how long it took but probably not too long so it isn't time consuming and it's definitely entertaining enough to give it a shot!

P.S - Our protagonists name is Tamaya Dhilwaddi. That just screams person of color. While that may not have been something discussed or featured in the book, although I wish it had been, even for a line or two, it's important to have non-white or at least non-white sounding protagonists and characters in our novels so like, good on ya Louis Sachar for taking a step.
- Noor

Amrutha's Review of Fuzzy Mud
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Gotta agree with Noor's rating on this one -- I liked the writing as usual: Louis Sachar has been one of my favorites since I was rereading the Wayside Stories every other day and was in love with Holes and Small Steps. When I saw another book by Sachar at BEA I knew I had to read it.

Little disclaimer if Noor didn't make it clear already: This book is Middle Grade, which I know isn't a thing we review often, but we made an exception because Louis Sachar is a gift and his writing is always entertaining and his characters are usually a joy.

This story is about Tamaya, a fifth grader, and her walking-home-buddy, seventh grade Marshall. When Marshall is bullied, they decide to take a different way home, through the woods that they aren't supposed to go through (little more ballsy than I might've been in fifth grade, but you do you guys). You might guess that they discover Fuzzy Mud. Fun fact, before I read this I didn't read the blurb and therefore had no idea this was going to be science-fiction-ish. Not going to lie, I kind of thought it was the middle grade sequel to Holes.

Anyway, they find this fuzzy mud and lots of drama happens and as Noor points out, it happens in a really forcedly fast way. I get that this kind of fast paced drama needed to occur because this book is so short and also is Middle Grade and not directed at an audience with the patience to read 400 pages to find out the outcome of the mud.

The little tidbits of the scientists being untrustworthy and annoying were actually one of my favorite parts of this book (surprisingly too, because I don't normally like those kinds of inclusions). They actually help shed some light on the story and excuses some of how rushed the plot is.

While the characters seemed really typical, I find that this is true of literally every Middle Grade novel because really quirky character developments don't seem to appeal to the audience this book is targeted at (at least, from my experience with kids that age recently). That being said, I really did enjoy the main characters (Chad was such a stereotypical bully that I cannot even try to like how his character was constructed) and they were fun to read about, which is really all I'm looking for in a short MG novel.

The best part about this was the actual writing style. The writing seemed a lot more YA than most MG novels do, solely because Louis Sachar doesn't write books in which he talks down to his audience of tweens and kids, and instead talks to them as though they are older with a tone that resonates (as Noor touched upon above) through all of his books.

Not going to lie, I wanted more from the plot because of the experience I have with Sachar's books, but I'm happy with what I got. The flow of the writing hasn't changed and that's more than I could really ask for. This is a pretty good Middle Grade novel, but don't read it expecting it to be Holes! This book is for a different audience and is much shorter, so adjustments in expectations should be made accordingly.
- Amrutha

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