I read McNeal’s To Be Sung Underwater with the idea that it was going to be a sweeping love story, beautifully told. The blurbs from some of my favorite authors were enviable raves. I thought the writing was good, but it’s hard to love a book when you can’t stand the main character (Publisher’s Weekly said “McNeal's agile prose manages to render Judith sympathetic, though she's not an easy character to like”, but I disagree).
When I began Far Far Away, I was intrigued by the concept; but I wasn’t sure the story would live up to it’s interesting premise — a story about a boy, a girl, and a ghost — the ghost of Jacob Grimm. Of course, I do love fairy tales, so I am an easy mark for a story like this. Even considering all that, I will say I loved this book. My only real regret is that I cannot share it with my girls, who are a tad too young for this right now (9 & 11). It was a story I could not help think would be wonderful to read aloud, though, for them, there were parts that might be too scary and definitely too sad. Toward the end of the book, it’s a little bit like a young adult version of Room. Since we read so many books aloud, I knew even as I read this, all of the places we would have to stop, get a tissue, and have a little cry (ok, that might just be me for some of those, plus, they rarely use a tissue). The real credit to McNeal is this — I even liked the villains in this book. His ending, though mostly wrapped up, was not altogether neat. He left a few details unexplained, and some people just stayed unpredictable. After all, not all the fairy tales had happy endings. But for me, this one did.