“If you live long enough, everything happens.” (Servants, Prologue)
I finished Servants by M. M. Smith last night. It turned out to be one of those books I couldn’t actually put down, which is a bit strange considering I usually dislike novels were the main character is a kid or a teenager. Stories were the main characters are kids are usually hard to write and hard to digest I think. But I put down all the other books I’m reading and read through this one fast. It was hard to put down.
I started reading it without knowing anything about it. The only thing I knew was that it was written by Mr. Smith, which in itself merits a read.
The last book I read with a young main character was Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane. And I have mixed feelings about it. I started reading it, hated it and stopped reading it. Ran into the audiobook and finished it while running. And it stayed with me. In fact every time I run past the place I used to run while I listened to it I think of it. So something in it caught me – and it won me over a bit.
This novel however I liked from the start. The eleven year old Mark is going through hard times and through his eyes you get to know his mother and his stepfather David, who is anything but popular, and the strange old lady in the cellar. The story is heartbreaking, heartwarming and adventurous, all at the same time. It tackles a dark subject and Mr. Smith handles it with ease and such care.
It wasn’t until just now that I looked the book up on the Internet that I realised it might be a Young Adult novel. I really don’t like genre talk and YA always confuses me. Maybe because I’m young at heart? Lets hope it’s that and not simple naiveté. Anyway – I don’t really care in what shelf it falls in the bookstore. It’s a good story, very well written – at times I found myself reading for the sake of the words and not just for the story and it’s not often that happens – and despite the seemingly mellow pace of the story it was quite suspenseful.
The fact that the eleven year old Mark is the center of the story also provides the reader with additional depth. You slowly get to learn the truth behind the mother and the stepfather, and because the story is told through Marks eyes you get a narrow view on the other characters, which in itself makes you develop with Mark. The truth behind the strange things that are happening in the “house” may come first to Mark but when it comes to other characters the reader may have some advantage.
It’s a heartwarming story, thrilling and captivating. Putting a YA stamp on it may limit it. I know nothing of YA novels or what speaks to young adults. I didn’t like Harry Potter. But I know what I like and this is a very well written and a warm story.