Goodreads: A Clatter of Jars
Series: A Tangle of Kots #2
Published: May 2016
Camp Atropos only takes campers with the most unusual of talents: Lily, who can levitate items; Renny, rumored to read minds; and the twins Chuck and Ellie, who share the same talent for being able to identify frogs. They arrive expecting a few of weeks of swimming in the lake and making crafts, but the director is collecting Talents in her office and now she’s learned that someone possesses the rare ability to transfer memories. And she’ll stop at nothing to possess that Talent for herself.
I love Lisa Graff’s work. She seems to possess an instinctive sensitivity for her characters and she always features a diverse cast. In this book, we have some Hispanic characters, some Black characters, and a character who appears to be on the autism spectrum. Yet, despite all this, A Tangle of Knots, the predecessor and sort of companion novel to A Clatter of Jars, was always one of my least favorite of Graff’s works–even though it’s also the one I see the most mentioned. A Clatter of Jars shares the features that made A Tangle of Knots less enjoyable for me.
A Tangle of Knots told the stories of several characters whose lives were (somewhat unbeknowst to them) connected. This book follows suit, weaving a story about characters with unknown familial ties but also connecting them through their shared experiences at summer camp. Everyone wants something–to be unique, to possess a Talent, to have their family reunited. They will chase after different Talents to try to achieve their dreams. (This does make a few of them perhaps unlikable at the start.)
All this means that the perspective switches a lot–sometimes a character only gets a page for his or her point of view before the story races on to someone else. Some of the characters I felt I knew, but others felt more like sidekicks, present simply so the book could impress one with its cleverness and the number of narrative threads it juggles.
A Clatter of Jars possesses a delightful premise and is filled with quirk and humor. Still, for me, the story falls flat.