Vardin Village by Maggie Spence

Vardin Village - Maggie Spence

(You all know Spence called me and demanded I remove or change my review and to tell my 19 other friends to stop talking about her or she would make sure my phone number was available to any friend, family member, or stranger on the street that wanted to call me and tell me I was crazy, right?)


Based on the kindle sample, it's ok. Writing is too simplistic for YA.  Lots of telling, not showing, even when unnecessary.  Some middle grade readers may find it acceptable.  So far most of the characters seem stupid or like jerks.  

Do not like the marketing practices for this one and for which I demoted this from two stars to one.

Here are some of my thoughts. I can't reference page numbers, since I was reading the Kindle Sample, but I've referenced the chapters for the information I'm quoting.  The quotes should not imply there was not further text between or around them.  I'm only quoting the portions pertinent to the comments I wish to make.

Chapter 1

George is a high school student who has worries.  He does not have things easy, that is for sure.

At the start of the story we see George with his friends Dillon Haver, Jackson Quinn, and Matt.  

Jackson says, “Someone broke into the press box over at Shari Field.  Coach is ‘investigating’”.  George asks “Your dad’s over there, Jackson?”.   To this Jackson (here the text includes the important tidbit of his last name as well, “Quinn”) replies, “Uh..., it’s his job.”

 If you are like me you might assume since the only male adult mentioned up to this point, and for a bit afterward, is Coach this means Coach is Jackson’s dad.  If so, you’d be wrong.

Shortly following this Dillon is driving a tractor with Jackson in the passenger seat.  We’re told, “With their attention completely focused on hitting Matt with the tractor, none of the boys noticed George’s panic.”  And no, George’s panic is not due to his friends idiocy, but for other reasons.  Then, “The guys laughed when Matt tripped and the tractor came within inches of running over his head.  George pretended to find it hilarious...”

This is the point where I don’t think I like these guys much. Even George, who we’re supposed to sympathize with, is not smelling like roses here.  He does seem to sincerely care about his little seven year old sister, Eleanor, so that gains him some points.  But the fact that he wasn’t startled out of his preoccupation enough to speak up when his moronic friends nearly run Matt over did not impress me.

A couple of Kindle “pages” later we’re told, “Coach and Chief Quinn came out the back door.”  If you’d been paying attention and remember Jackson’s last name is Quinn this is your clue that the police chief is his dad and not the football coach.

We’re introduced to Archie, who works security for the high school. What we’re told about him initially is that he yells at kids who jaywalk, and who are in his way when he walks the grounds.  “George had been afraid of him since T-ball.”  So far, doesn’t sound like a real likeable guy.

Archie opines that the perpetrators of the break in were “goths” who’ve “been creeping around here looking to smoke their grass and sacrifice goats and cut themselves.”  Ok, then.  Since there’s no mention of any evidence of this, “just some stuff moved around” it’s sounding like this guy may have a screw loose.  But then the police chief seems to agree!  “Yes. I figured as much”.  Now the police chief isn’t sounding too bright to me either.

After that conversation is wrapped up the Coach draws George away from the group, “out of earshot”.  Then he YELLS what he has to say. We’ve been told previously he “...yelled almost everything he had to say during normal conversation...”. Seems a bit pointless to me to bother to move out of earshot of the others and then yell what you have to say.  He also seems clueless that George’s family has money issues, which I would think under the circumstances wouldn’t be much of a secret in a small town, so that didn’t seem very believable to me.  But ok, maybe Coach is just an idiot, too.

When George gets back to his friends they want to know what Coach said.  I wonder why, couldn’t they hear him YELLING?

Chapter 2

George’s friends go to “Chipotle”.  I don’t know what that is, and we’re not told.  Perhaps a typical young person reading this would.  My guess is a restaurant, but should I need to guess?

George’s sister Eleanor has been at a friend's house and we are introduced to the friend's mother, Mrs. Tillman.  The Tillmans are well-off, and Mrs. Tillman is condescending and seems self-absorbed.   During this part though I got the impression of a bit of reverse snobbery on the part of the narrator, for example, "Tear-downs were all too common in the village as moneyed urbanites raced to the burbs for the good schools and a simpler life.”

Mrs. Tillman invites Eleanor to go with them on their weekend trip.  I’m not sure why George didn’t let her go, since they don’t have enough to eat (George hadn't eaten in a few days at this point).  At least that way Eleanor would have a few good meals.  George and Eleanor’s parents aren’t in the picture, but with George hiding the fact that his mom wasn’t around it seems to me it wouldn’t be that hard to fake parental approval for someone inclined to believe him.  He could have just told Mrs. Tillman he’d ask his mom, then pretend he was relaying a message when he told Mrs. Tillman Eleanor could go.  It’s possible there was a reason for it I didn’t learn, since I only had a bit more story to the Sample.  But it struck me as strange.

Mrs. Tillman asked George if he knows they are friends with the Jansens.  George tells her he assumed they were.  Mrs. Tillman, “found that hilarious”.  I don’t know why.

George’s deceased grandfather is described as, “an angry, conservative, workaholic”.  I’m sure there are many real people who fit that description, but (in the Sample at least), I don’t see any evidence of any of that, other than we’re just told.  And, along with other mentions and portrayals regarding wealthier people in this story it made me wonder if the author feels conservatives are typically “angry”.  And to be honest, in a middle grade or young adult fiction story that doesn’t have anything to do with politics (that I can see so far), I just don’t want questions like that to occur to me when I’m reading.  There’s just a vague wiff of some sort of underlying bias or message that I’m not sure needs to be here.

Overall, it's tolerable enough, but not without flaws.

For particular parents:  I counted one "Damn" and one "oh, God" in the sample, as well as really stupid and life-threatening antics mentioned above.