This book really was "spoiled popcorn" for us.
We stumbled across the Netflix series, TrollHunters: Tales of Arcadia a while ago and it was love at first sight. We raved about it, told all our adult friends with kids about it, and just loved, loved, loved it! It was everything we wanted in a TV animated series.
We were truly saddened when it came to an abrupt end with the death of the voice actor for Jimbo, Anton Yelchin. There was some genuine grieving going on in our household. Yelchin's death left the series at a weird point in the story, with an ending that was the best they could do without continuing without him, but it was not satisfying at all.
However, del Toro quickly produced 3Below: Tales of Arcadia, which has all the same heart, and again, we were delighted and have been enjoying that series ever since (Varvatos Vex rules!).
Now enter my local library. I can't remember where the recommendation came from, but I checked out a book by David Kraus, The Life and Death of Zebulon Finch, and lo and behold, in the front pages is a list of other books by Kraus -- which included this gem, TrollHunters, by him and Guillermo del Toro.
Guillermo del Toro occupies a special place in our household. He's a Latinx writer, screen and books, who creates just absolutely fantastic stories with characters my kiddos can relate to and my screenwriting husband drools over. Claire and Jimbo. Blinky and ARGH! Need I say more?
But I sucked in my breath, because we have a rather strict reader policy in our household. My oldest, 17, insists we never, ever see anything on screen that she's read in a book. Ever. I have yet to see Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit movies, never seen Harry Potter movies, or the Percy Jackson movies (although I'm told I'm not missing much there) because of this strict adherence to "not ruining the images in her head," created by reading a book. There's going to be one heck of a watching party at my house when she goes away to college!
But this situation has never happened to us before, where we watched something on TV before we knew it existed / read it as a book. So, the question was, do I read the book? Or no? I couldn't help myself. I put it on hold and devoured it as soon as it came in .
And yes, reading it this way -- it's spoiled popcorn. I can't help comparing it to the TV show as I read.
My daughter hasn't read the book yet. She may never pick it up. I don't know how she's going to handle it.
But I have and I loved it!
The premise is a bit different from the TV show. Jim Sturges and his older brother Jack go biking in a concrete wash in San Bernardino, Califas in 1969. Something big and black and horrifyingly scary snatches Jack, but Jim escapes on his bike, pedaling so fast he loses his training wheels. Just before he collapses in the arms of his parents, he sees a medallion in the grass in his front yard. He never sees it -- or Jack -- again.
Flash forward. Jim is now the parent of Jim Jr. He mows lawns and works at an electronics store. His wife left them. You understand why, when you learn there are 10 locks on the front door, roll-down steel shutters over every window, and when Jim Jr. is two minutes late getting home, his father calls the police. Jack's snatching seriously warped the man.
But his son isn't convinced there's anything to be afraid of in the night, until...well, I won't spoil it. The meeting of Jim Jr. and the trolls is spine-tingling, thing-under-the-bed or hiding-in-the-closet in the black of night when shadows take on lives of their own scary. I don't want to ruin any of it.
It's interesting to see the exact same story elements used in slightly different ways, from TV to book, to a slightly different effect -- the Romeo and Juliet play with Jim and Claire, an interesting characterization of Steve Jorgensen-Warner (won't spoil the twist there, but in the book, it's GREAT!), Tobias' braces and the orthodontist, and the medallion is probably the most different from the TV show, but I won't say how. Blinky is blind and has tentacles, and ARGGGH!!! is -- gasp -- a girl. There's also an entire character in the book who's not in the TV series.
The climax is great. The edition I read had some of the creepiest, goriest pictures I've ever seen in a middle grade book; they have an almost comic book feel to them. It's not really YA, not by today's standards. It's in that wonderful in-between category, much more mature and violent than today's MG, but not full of the typical teenage kissy-lovey-dovey drama of a YA. I wholeheartedly recommend it!