Where UNDER THE WHISPERING DOOR felt very much the same type of story as THE HOUSE IN THE CERULEAN SEA, this book felt different from the beginning. Perhaps it’s the sci-fi setting as opposed to the magical realist feel. Perhaps it’s the prevalence of (very middle school-feeling) humor mixed with the very adult themes and language. I don’t know. Something felt off from the beginning, and though it won me over enough to keep reading eventually, it never fully persuaded me.
If Cerulean Sea was a Pixar film, this is more a Spielberg—delightful, yes, but a bit overly sentimental and obviously trying to win the hearts of the Academy. Big themes sometimes very clunkily handled but you don’t mind it because of the charming characters. It creates a whimsical, Portal-esque vibe, but sometimes it felt like the tone didn’t match the story.
I think, in the end, I was most bothered by the plot. It felt like Klune focused so much on the characters and their banter that he forgot to actually develop the world and give the plot enough breathing room to develop in a natural way. It makes for a mixed bag of a book; fun yet a little grating at times, a heavy-handedness creeping in and only getting worse throughout. I actually believe it would’ve worked much better as a middle grade animated tv show. It certainly felt written that way.
Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this in exchange for an honest review.