Friday, August 17, 2012

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥: The First Escape by G.P. Taylor

The First Escape (The Dopple Ganger Chronicles #1)
G.P. Taylor

Release Date: September 1st, 2008
Publisher: SaltRiver (Tyndale House Publishers)
Page Count: 279
Source: Complimentary copy provided Tyndale Blog Network in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you!)

At Isambard Dunstan's School for Wayward Children, life is trouble for fourteen-year-old identical twins Sadie and Saskia Dopple and their friend, former thief Erik Morrissey Ganger. But what starts out as a perfectly normal day of food fights, rioting classmates, and (yawn) threats of expulsion goes suddenly and horribly wrong when a mysterious, wealthy woman appears at the school and adopts Saskia... without her sister.

On her own in a mansion full of dark secrets, Saskia stumbles upon a conspiracy that threatens her very life. Meanwhile, desperate to find Saskia, Sadie and Erik escape from the orphanage with a gang of enemies in hot pursuit. Faced with perils beyond their imaginations, the trio must decide who to trust—and what to believe—if they are to survive long enough to find each other again.
What Stephanie Thinks: Graphic novels have been viewed with skepticism by literary critics, but I personally think they're amazing vessels for storytelling, especially for the sake of reluctant readers. I, as a kid, loved reading, but I know I was a part of the minority; many kids, especially today with so much 'vital' technology, are disinclined to read because they find it boring or they get restless. Fortunately, The First Escape may help invigorate such book cynics.

Set in a rather gloomy gothic setting, presumably Victorian or Edwardian Britain, The First Escape intertwines each Dopple twin's adventures after being, for the first time, parted from her lifelong fraternal counterpart. As sisters, they pretty much share the same heart, the same brain, so it's terrifying for both of them, to have to be separated. This motivates Sadie to escape the dreadful Isambard Dunstan's School for Wayward Children in order to find Saskia, and Saskia to escape her new home, as much as she is glad to have been adopted. 

The First Escape tells an adventurous and vibrant, yet at the same time, hair-raising and chilling story through beautiful and child-appropriate illustrations. This is definitely a children's novel in both content in style, but I would save it for the more mature readers, because there is some daunting material, stuff that easily-frightened children may freak out over, or find very disturbing. Just because it's a graphic novel, doesn't mean it's a picture book, or just for young kids; I would recommend it for children ages 8 to 12.

Taylor's writing is so-so, nothing spectacular, but his treading plot is full of twists and turns with a heart-pumping, completely satisfying ending, that ensures the reader that the story isn't over quite yet. I hope I do get the opportunity to read the next installment of this titillating series. I absolutely love the structure of the book. It's not just in comic strip form; the pages consist of comic panels, yes, but also straight pages of prose (as you'd see in a regular novel), as well as artistic depictions of words splayed out across pages, in swirls and shapes of all kinds, surrounding illustrations... simply beautiful. I was definitely impressed by the innovative stylistic choices of the combination of pictures and words.

The First Escape is composed of two different exploits and adventures—Sadie's story, and Saskia's—but they parallel (as well as juxtapose) one another nicely, and come together eventually to illuminate this Gothic revival-era children's story. It reads like a folk tale almost, with prevailing morals, and a Christian undertone (note: Tyndale is a Christian publisher and this book does have Christian connotation about belief in a higher power, blah blah, but I wouldn't say it is an overwhelming theme. God is never directly mentioned, so I think it's mostly up to the reader and the way he or she will interpret this message. I personally just considered the 'higher being' to be a potential version of one's own soul, although I knew it was implicating God. To each one's own). I think middle grade readers, especially those who don't like to read in the first place, will be intrigued by Taylor's exciting, eerie, and paranormal story and amazed by the earthy, but still penetrating illustrations that enrich it.

Stephanie Loves: "[Sadie's] heart still pounded, and every breath burned her lungs. But the smile that beamed across her face spoke of the hope within her heart."

Radical Rating: 9 hearts: Loved it! This book has a spot on my favorites shelf. ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥