The Night Tourist by Katherine Marsh is in the sweet spot of my reading choices these days: YA fantasy with mythological theme. So when I saw it at a local Borders store for a couple of bucks I picked it up.
Here is the publisher’s blurb that grabbed my attention:
Jack Perdu, a shy, ninth grade classics prodigy lives with father on the Yale University campus. Smart and introverted, Jack spends most of his time alone, his nose buried in a book. But when Jack suffers a near fatal accident, his life is forever changed.
His father sends him to a mysterious doctor in New York City–a place Jack hasn’t been since his mother died there eight years ago. While in the city, Jack meets Euri, a young girl who offers to show him the secrets of Grand Central Station. Here, Jack discovers New York’s Underworld, a place where those who died in the city reside until they are ready to move on. This, Jack believes, is a chance to see his mother again. But as secrets about Euri’s past are revealed, so are the true reasons for Jack’s visit to the Underworld.
Having read it this week I have to say it met my expectations. It mixed adventure, mystery and the history and landscape of New York City with mythology to create an intelligent and engaging story.
The story is a take on the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice with Jack as Orpheus and – you guessed it – Euri (that’s not her real name) as Eurydice. The interesting twist is that Jack obviously doesn’t intend to go to the underworld and once there he is seeking his mom not Euri.
Marsh does a nice job of slowly filling in the background of both Jack and Euri as well as their family histories. The story has a nice mix of action, mystery, humor (the Freudian bits are worth a chuckle) and intelligent word play (interesting tidbits about New York history, literature, and mythology throughout). This builds the suspense and allows her to develop the characters.
It also deals intelligently, but lightly, with the difficult issues of death and tragedy and their impact on families. Euri is ashamed of her past and Jack harbors a lot of emotions as the result of his mom’s death and his dad’s reaction to that event. In a sense, Jack grows up during his three nights in the underworld by coming to terms with his emotions while at the same time admitting the truth sets both Euri and Jack’s mom free. But this doesn’t mean if is a happy go lucky ending.
The book clearly left room for a sequel, and sure enough there is one. I look forward to reading it and following the continuing adventures of Jack.