Marsh, K. (2007). The Night Tourist. New York: Hyperion Books for Children.
Appetizer: While walking on the Yale campus, Jack Perdu was hit by a car. While his injuries weren't too serious, he can now see the ghosts that haunt the world at night. When his dad sends him to New York City to see a doctor friend, Jack is led by a strange girl deeper and deeper down into Grand Central Station and into the land of the dead.
After receiving this unexpected opportunity, Jack seeks out his dead mom, who his father refused to speak about. But Jack's situation grows complicated when he grows attached to his New York City ghost guide, Euri, and learns that he can only stay in the realm of the dead for three nights and that the three headed dog, Cerberus hunts him.
I actually had a lot of trouble getting into this book. A LOT. Jack was just a bit too smart for my tastes. He doesn't come across that way in the narration, exactly. But as I was reading, I imagined what I would think of him if I sat down next to this guy in a class or at a train station:
JACK: I'm helping a Yale professor translate Ovid's Metamorphoses from Latin.
JACK: Because I understand Latin.
JACK: And I'm a high school freshman.
JACK: And I can randomly quote from other works of poetry and literature, classic and modern.
JACK: Would you like to hear a quote now?
JACK: My jacket is tweedy. Would you like to touch it?
SHEL STANDS AND MOVES TO ANOTHER SEAT AS FAR AWAY FROM THIS JACKASS AS POSSIBLE.
Basically, I'd find Jack annoying while also being secretly jealous that he was so much smarter than me. The jackass!
My other problem was that he was clearly going through some very tense and emotional situations, but I didn't feel any real emotion coming from him until the veeeeeeeeery ending.
Following along this line, I also had some trouble with the plot. I wanted to feel a sense of urgency. I wanted to care. Really I did. Knowing Jack can only stay in the ghosty New York City for three nights should have instantly caused tensions. But the fact that Euri and Jack spend most of their nights touring the city, sledding and attending plays (granted, the play attending is meant to lead them to some people who could help them or to provide some intertextuality), I felt almost no urgency. That left me feeling "meh" about the whole book.
Perhaps it's me. I do know of a middle grade teacher who strongly recommended this book. In comparison to the Percy Jackson series, which is also incorporates Greek mythology, this book emphasizes characters' emotions rather than a fast-paced plot, which will appeal to a more YA audience. Maybe. Plus, it is worth noting that this book really focuses on death, letting go and suicide.
Perhaps I'm just grouchy. I read this book as part of my research for Dudley the Dissertation. (And because of that, I will also be going on to read the sequel, The Twilight Prisoner.) Right now, Dudley and I are fighting, so I could be taking that out on The Night Tourist.
Could be. But not likely.
"It was just after dusk when the accident happened. As usual, Jack Perdu was walking through the Yale University campus with his nose buried in Ovid's Metamorphoses. Although he was only in the ninth grade, he had an after-school job helping the head of the university's Classics department on her new English translation. It was the day after Christmas so there were no professors around, which meant there was no reason for Jack to look up out of his book" (p. 3).
"The next thing he knew, there was a loud, heavy metal music, and he was knocked off his feet and into the air.
Jack barely had time to register what had happened. He caught a glimpse of the car that hit him, heard panicked shouts, and closed his eyes as his body hit the ground. A loud rushing sound filled his ears. Then he blacked out" (p. 6).
"Jack thought about his accident, how it had led him to New York, and to Euri. Maybe following her to track 61 hadn't been a mistake. Maybe it was meant to happen, so he could find his mother. For the first time in years he allowed himself to imagine seeing her again, and his chest tightened. He took a deep breath. "Do you think I could find her?" (p. 51).
Tasty Rating: !!