James Dashner, Journal of Curious Letters (The 13th Reality), Scholastic Australia, May 2018, 400pp., $17.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781742994789
Atticus ‘Tick’ Higginbottom receives a letter in the mail that changes his life. Postmarked from Alaska, the letter reveals the first of 12 clues. If solved, something extraordinary – but unknown – will happen. If he doesn’t want to continue, burning a letter will stop the journey. Not usually an adventurer by nature, Tick decides to keep deciphering the clues despite the unexpected and sometimes frightening events that go with it. He seeks help on the internet and befriends others who have also received letters. The action increases as the clues lead them across countries. When the final clue has been solved, Tick and his friends are winked to another reality where they finally discover their quest: Master George needs help to stop the evil Mistress Jane from the 13th Reality infiltrating the rest of the worlds. A terrifying battle to retrieve the Barrier Wand Mistress Jane uses to cross realities succeeds, and Tick’s special talents surprise even Master George. Although the children are returned to their families, they are now members of the elite Realitants with a lot more work to be done.
This is an exciting read, full of action but with real warmth suffused into the story. Tick’s relationship with his father is particularly positive, with Edgar providing his son with just the right level of support and freedom. Tick’s friendships with his fellow Realitants and the selection of odd characters allied with Master George feel real and strong. Originally released in the USA ten years ago, Scholastic proposed to realise the four books locally in the series within the year. They should be highly sought after by readers of speculative fiction.
Reviewed by Pam Harvey