Book Review of Clara Poole and the Long Way Round by Taylor Tyng
Rating: 3 stars
*May contain spoilers*
This book follows a young girl with a daredevil streak. This risk-taking, adrenaline-seeking need of hers gets her into a lot of trouble—even resulting in a devastating accident where she loses someone she loves. She will eventually find herself on an epic air balloon race, full of more dangers than she could’ve probably bargained for that will provide for her a chance to face her grief head-on.
I did find some parts incredibly unrealistic and dangerous and feel they lacked proper consequences. When we’re writing books geared to youth, I think it’s very important to label dangerous behaviour or have consequences following decisions such as getting in the car with people to a foreign country who are ultimately strangers. At least have the main character reflect on why this is a bad idea, why it’s dangerous, or have someone older and wiser point it out and have it be taken seriously. I also found it unrealistic they wouldn’t require her father to sign something, etc. like maybe she could’ve forged a signature, something (not that that’s a good thing, and should also have consequences, but it would at least make it more realistic why she was able to get away with it).
I would've liked to see Clara's anxiety come out more with the storms and really have that pushed for the why she suddenly wanted out of the contract/race, because as it stands we see her as really reckless, a daredevil who probably doesn't think much of the consequences of her actions or think harm will come to her, so her wanting to pull out because of danger doesn’t make much sense otherwise. But if the author had the memory of her accident flash in her mind at the mention of storms and then she wanted to pull out of the race that would make sense. I just feel the reason wasn't clear and it at first seemed out of character till I thought more about it. But maybe this was explained and I just missed it.
I would’ve actually liked to have seen her father have a change of heart and choose to go with her to England and join the race, instead of her basically running away. I know he was by nature more cautious, but maybe if the grandmother talked to him about how his daughter needed him, he could rise above that part of himself. I know he does eventually, but this would’ve made it more believable.
I feel like if this book were fantasy and not set in modern day England, I could brush off the complete ridiculousness of the rules like how this underage child signed a contract she cannot get out of even though it was under duress and without parental approval. Likewise, the one girl passing out at breakfast and her mom just saying it is because she likes her sweets, and nothing is seen as an emergency is very weird. I get it's supposed to be comical, but...
Many of the characters are very ridiculous as well. Again, I feel like it may just be the time and place that's the issue here. If set in a different culture/time period/world then it may not have seemed so out-of-place ridiculous how so many of the characters behaved.
This book was a well-written, easy read, flowed well, and I found it easy to care about Clara. There were some very beautiful descriptions of the scenery. I really loved the first couple chapters, before she left to England. I found those flowed super well and were emotion-evoking, and I would’ve given the book 4/5 stars based on those chapters, but as the book progressed, I found some parts dragged for me and I lacked the connection I was hoping for with the characters and story at least until toward the end. When her father steps up finally, then things improved, and I did like the mystery elements surrounding Landon’s lineage.
It seems a lot of people liked it, so maybe I’m being a bit nit-picky. And it isn’t that I didn’t like it. Believe me, if I did, it would’ve just been DNFed, but I did finish it so it was a decent read. Maybe as a young reader of middle-grade, and not an older writer AND reader of middle-grade fiction, I would’ve rated it higher, I don’t know.