While still heavily infused with a touch of whimsy, Jimmy Gownley’s latest “Amelia Rules” adventure “True Things (Adults Don’t Want Kids to Know)” is tinged with melancholy and definitely takes our heroine down a more serious road.
Amelia is turning the ripe, old age of 11, and I didn’t think this would be coming for a couple more years.
But, yes, the big “B” has entered the room: boys.
Gownley has eased us into the topic over the last couple volumes, but it hits hard as unrequited love blankets the neighborhood. Most of the main characters have a crush on someone, but it’s never reciprocated.
And everyone seems to be sniping at each other — friends, sisters, parents.
hate to say it, but “True Things” is quite the downer — a well-written downer, but not as much fun nonetheless. It feels like too much too soon.
Gownley still shows a master stroke in dialogue and pacing. Even if you don’t like what the characters are saying, it still rings true. And I couldn’t put the book down.
So I can’t fault Gownley entirely for how he wrote the book — just that he wrote it at all.
An artist on a series like this always has to wrestle with the question of the characters aging. Do you leave them in a state of perpetual childhood bliss, or do they grow and evolve if not exactly in real time, at least over the course of a series?
And this is what has me so torn. In general, I’m in favor of the idea of aging characters gradually. But there’s something about the “Amelia Rules” series that makes it an exception for me.
“Amelia Rules” was never completely sunshine and lollipops. But it had a buoyancy to it that was the spoonful of sugar to its medicine. That’s what’s lacking in this volume.
It has its light moments, it has its uplifting moments, and it has its poignant moments. But it doesn’t have that overarching shine that made me smile when I put previous volumes down.
Maybe that’s on purpose, and maybe I’m being selfish. But I can (and do) get that kind of story from other places. It’s just not the story I expect from “Amelia Rules.”
But is it going to stop me from picking up the next volume? Heck, no.
I’m hoping it’s a blip — like the fifth “Harry Potter” book when I almost stopped reading it because Harry was such a jerk, and I just wanted to slap him (and then Ron in the final book).
Amelia is only 11. Does it really start that early these days? If she’s like this now, what’s coming at 13?
Hopefully by then she’ll have found her bright spot again.