Book Review: Oddity by Eli Brown

Oddity by Eli Brown

Posted March 16, 2021 by Amber in Reviews / 0 Comments

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Oddity

Oddity

by Eli Brown

Publisher: Walker Books on March 30, 2021
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Target Age Group: Middle Grade
Representation: BIPOC Character(s), Black Character(s), Native Character(s)
Content Warnings: Death, Death of Parent, Gun Violence, Medical Content, Violence

Rating: ★★★½

Check out this book on Goodreads or buy the book at Bookshop.org

It’s the early 1800s, and Clover travels the impoverished borderlands of the Unified States with her father, a physician. See to the body before you, he teaches her, but Clover can’t help becoming distracted by bigger things, including the coming war between the US and France, ignited by a failed Louisiana Purchase, and the terrifying vermin, cobbled together from dead animals and spare parts, who patrol the woods. Most of all, she is consumed with interest for Oddities, ordinary objects with extraordinary abilities, such as a Teapot that makes endless amounts of tea and an Ice Hook that freezes everything it touches.

Clover’s father has always disapproved of Oddities, but when he is murdered, Clover embarks on a perilous mission to protect the one secret Oddity he left behind. And as she uncovers the truth about her parents and her past, Clover emerges as a powerful agent of history.

 

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from LibraryThing and Walker Books US in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Oddity is at times a really fun book, but at other times it’s a bit of a rambling story.  I was sucked in at the beginning, but as the tale wore on, I got a bit bored.  It’s also on the longer end for middle grade novels, and considering the violence and implied violence, I would recommend Oddity to older middle grade to young adult readers who are interested in something strange and interesting.

I requested this ARC because the concept of Oddities fascinated me immediately.  Does anyone remember the SyFy show Warehouse 13?  The concept of Oddities is just like the artifacts in Warehouse 13, and I was fascinated to learn more about the magic, history, and mythology woven into these objects.  There was some of this, though there were a limited number of Oddities (in all fairness, there were never going to be enough to sate my curiosity – I love magical objects like these).  I thought Brown did a decent job describing the magic in this world, and while it isn’t entirely unique, it’s a flavor we don’t see often.  I enjoyed that.

I also felt that the characters were well flushed out.  In middle grade novels, depth of character is hit or miss, to the point where I’ve come to expect a “miss”.  Oddity was a refreshing change from that, with Clover’s journey driving her forward and a collection of mostly dishonest (but loveable) characters urging the story forward.  Susannah was easily my favorite character.  Even the villains in this story were interesting and well-written, with their own histories and motivations.  I love me some complex characters.

For me, the pacing was a little slow, and I felt like Brown started to be repetitive about the functions of individual Oddities, and Clover’s personal drive.  I think the book could have been tightened up a little bit to create a better reading experience.  The plot itself moved along, but there some repetitive explanations and some emotional cycling that didn’t add to the story and made scenes drag out.

The one other thing I would like to mention is that Oddity takes place in the American west.  Westerns are traditionally fraught with problematic elements, and unfortunately, Oddity is no exception.  There’s a couple mentions of slavery and we learn that Clover was basically raised by a Black woman, perpetuating the “Black nanny” stereotype.  I didn’t realize the character was Black until there was an illustration and brief comment later in the book.  Additionally, the Native people in Oddity are constantly referred to as “Indians” and there are a couple scenes with Native people in them that I feel were not handled well.  They weren’t handled poorly, per se, but once again Brown fell into stereotypes.  It was really unfortunate because these elements were not at all essential to the story and added a bit of a sour taste because of their handling.

As a whole, the book was fun and creative and as a whole, I enjoyed my experience reading it.  However, the poorly handled rep turned me a bit off the story.  I also want to acknowledge that as far as middle grade novels go, Oddity is pretty dark, so please take that into consideration before offering it to a middle grade reader.  The writing is also pretty simple, as is often the case with MG books so that is not a criticism, just a fact.

Since this was only an ARC, please note that some of the elements I found concerning may be addressed before full publication.  If they are, it would make Oddity is a book I would have loved when I was younger.  As it stands, it needs a little work.

Ratings Breakdown

Setting: ★★★ 1/2
Plot: ★★★ 1/2
Characters: ★★★★
Writing: ★★★
Pacing: ★★★
Personal Enjoyment: ★★★ 1/2

three and a half star rating

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Oddity Will be Donated

I’ve been waffling over whether or not I was going to keep this book.

On the one hand, I just really, really like the concept of oddities.  I think it’s so creative and gave me some serious Warehouse 13 nostalgia (forever one of my favorite shows).  However, I have to be honest with myself on the odds that I’m going to read this again.  The story was a little rambling and the bit 75% through with the Native people bothered me.  I don’t think that Oddity is a book that is going to cling to my heart, as much as I wanted to love it.  I wanted to love it, I wanted to so very much… but I didn’t.  I liked it, but not enough to give it a space on my shelf.

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Do you think you’d like a world filled with objects that had magical properties?  Do you think they’d be used wisely?  Abused?  A bit of both?  Let me know what you think in the comments!

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