Goodreads: Greenglass House
Twelve-year-old Milo always looks forward to the winter holidays when the smugglers’ inn run by his adoptive parents lies empty and he can spend time with his family. But despite the blizzard blowing in, the bell keeps ringing and more guests keep arriving, each harboring a secret somehow connected to the inn’s shadowy past. With the help of his new friend Meddy, Milo begins following the clues and exploring the house, hoping to learn more not only about the property’s history but also about his own.
The summary of Greenglass House immediately caught my attention, promising one of those delightful middle-grade mysteries not only full of fun and quirk, but also full of heart. Like Milo, each of the guests at the inn has old wound, an old loss, or an old flame for which they would like to find closure and, with the help of an enterprising pair of children, they may find that closure comes, not from secrecy and mistrust but from love and sharing. Unfortunately,though the book possesses all the ingredients to make a truly memorable read, the actual execution of the story left me feeling disappointed.
In such books as these, the seemingly disparate elements of the plot usually come together at the end. Thus, I expected to see Milo find some closure for his doubts about wanting to know his biological family even though he loves the parents who adopted him. I hoped to see that some of the guests would learn that had much in common and would forge bonds, even if they never started lasting relationships. I wanted to see all of this tied up in the mystery of the inn’s history.
Instead, the problems of each of the characters remained singular problems–they never intertwined or commented on each other. Milo does give each of the guest’s varying degrees of closure (and some endings are decidedly less satisfying than others), but the other guests often never learn about the reasons for each other’s stay or, if they do, they do not learn how each other’s stories end. I really wanted to see some overlaps, though, because, artistically, they seemed necessary. For example, if one guest is looking for an old relic in the house and another is looking for a hidden piece of art, wouldn’t it be neat to see them share their love and passion for history and the house with each other? Perhaps the author thought it would be too neat. Better, more realistic to keep everyone’s story separate. Still, it’s a middle-grade book and I expect the sort of satisfaction that does not happen often in real life.
An overarching mystery including “stolen” objects tentatively holds the smaller mysteries together, with Milo and his friend Meddy acting as detectives through a role-playing game that Meddy enjoys. This plot seems extraneous in the end, even though it’s the one most linked to the mysterious history of the inn, simply because so much of the reveal seems to come from out of the blue. Hints of the truth are scattered throughout the story and readers will understand at the end why seemingly random details or elements appeared. However, they did not point enough to the end to make it convincing and the motivation behind the actions of the perpetrator were likewise not entirely believable. More than any other part of the book, the ending left me disappointed.
I also admit that, for a large part of the story, I found myself bored. To convince Milo to investigate the mysterious guests at the inn, Meddy has to convince him to take part in a role-playing game with her. I could have accepted Milo needing to use his imagination and play a role to do things he normally would be too scared or shy to do. However, I really wasn’t invested in all the elaborate rules of the RPG, the various levels and skills and points, etc. Actually, I was never sure why Meddy even bothered to discuss points and skills because the two were not narrating the story around the table or rolling dice to see what actions would occur. They were acting in real life and saying Milo has extra stealth powers or lie-detecting skills does not impart to the boy any real-life abilities to be sneaky or discern the truth.
I had high hopes for Greenglass House, but it was not the type of story I was expecting to read and that left me feeling unsatisfied. Furthermore, I did not really feel invested in the majority of the characters, meaning I little cared how most of their stories played out. In the end, Greenglass House simply wasn’t the book for me.