The Hollow Boy by Jonathan Stroud
Published by Disney Hyperion
Genres: Children’s, Paranormal, Horror, YA
For Fans of: The Bartimaeus Sequence, Skulduggery Pleasant, Rick Riordan
My Rating: 4.5 of out 5 stars
As a supernatural outbreak baffles Scotland Yard and causes protests against the psychic agencies throughout London, Lockwood and Co. continue to demonstrate their effectiveness in exterminating spirits. Anthony is dashing, George insightful, and Lucy dynamic, while the skull in the jar utters sardonic advice from the sidelines. There is a new spirit of openness between the team now that Anthony has shared his childhood story, and Lucy is feeling more and more like her true home is at Portland Row. It comes as a great shock, then, when Lockwood and George introduce her to an annoyingly perky and hyper-efficient new assistant, Holly Munro. Meanwhile, there are reports of many new hauntings, including an old school where bloody handprints and a glowing boy are appearing. But ghosts seem to be the least of Lockwood and Co.’s concerns when a living assassin makes an attempt on Fittes’s and Rotwell’s lives. Can the team get past their interpersonal issues to save the day on all fronts? Danger abounds, tensions escalate, and new loyalties form in this third delightfully terrifying adventure.
A Quick Rundown of My “The Hollow Boy” Reading Experience
Me: Ah, Lockwood & Co. Lockwood, Lucy and George.
Me: But –
Stroud: * Hammers at one gigantic piece of what I thought I knew to be true *
Stroud: * Shoves Holly Munro into the mix *
Me: …Oh. Okay.
Me: Ah, look. Lucy, my well-rounded, reasonable heroine.
Stroud: Lucy? Reasonable? Unswayed by jealousy? Lady, please.
Me: Wait. Who said anything about jealousy?
Stroud: * Hammers away again *
Stroud: HOW D’YOU LIKE YOUR HEROINE NOW?
Me: Water you doing???? (‘O_O)
Me: … At least I still have my seemingly-random-case-that-turns-out-to-be-the-title-case. at least I’ve still got that.
Stroud: * maniacal laughter *
Me: Oh no.
Stroud: * continues laughing *
Me: Please no.
Stroud: YOU THOUGHT YOU COULD PREDICT ME? ME??? I LAUGH AT YOU.
Stroud: * picks up hammer. Destroys me. *
Me: …at least the ending is ha—
Stroud: * hammers away gleefully *
I was unsure of this at the beginning, mostly because the tone of The Hollow Boy was noticeably different than that of its predecessors. I’m still not quite certain what it was. Maybe the tone was more mature? Maybe the sort of stuck-uppity way Lucy’s narration began was an indicator of what this book had in store for us. Maybe both. Either way, it was different, and that threw me a tad.
But I settled in soon enough, and, like Lucy Carlyle, found myself quite settled with how things were going on with Lockwood & Co. This was the same company I was used to; the same collection of characters I’d grown so fond of; the same random-case-that-turned-out-to-be-something-bigger. And again, just like Lucy Carlyle, I soon discovered that I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The Hollow Boy saw some very serious changes for Lucy and, by extension, the readers. I think that’s the brilliance of this book. With The Screaming Staircase and The Whispering Skull, Stroud made us comfortable. He took his time to introduce us to these characters, took his time to build solid walls of friendship and familiarity. And then he took a sledgehammer and SMASHED IT ALL TO BITS.
But I think you’ve already figured that part out by now.
As the blurb promises, Lockwood & Co. gets a new addition. Holly Munro, surprise surprise, is a girl – and to reasons obvious to everyone except the characters in the book, (Except the skull. He’s smart) Lucy doesn’t really get on with Holly all that much. In fact, she spends about 80% of the spitting snark and mentally tearing Holly apart for being “prim and proper”.
This was all a little bit difficult for me to stomach. You see, a good majority of my friends are male. Not on purpose. This is just a thing, there’s no reason for it. But that’s not what’s important here. What is important is this series’ lack of a solid female friendship – and if anyone understands the need for female friendships, it’s me. Lucy has no female friends, and really, every time she’s ever interacted with a female in the field, things have always ended a little… salty.
Yes. It must be said. Lucy Carlyle does not play nice with other girls.
Which is sad, really, because throughout this book you could tell that she and Holly could be great friends if only she’d given her a chance. But instead of seizing the opportunity to make a female friend, like, say, I would have, Lucy chose to be petty. She chose to be snarky. She chose to complain and gripe and make things unpleasant not just for Holly, but for Lockwood and George as well.
I hated this bitchy side of Lucy. But I also enjoyed how much more human this made her seem. Yes, she was being an unreasonable little twit, but considering that her powers have been growing so much, so fast, it was a nice touch. Gave her a little vulnerability and made her a tad more relatable.
(side note: This does not mean that I’m okay with Lucy not having any girlfriends. If she does not make a solid female friendship sometime soon, I will cut a bi–wraith.)
Writing reviews for books that have only just come out is tough for me. Because I have this urge to pepper my reviews with fangirl-y bits that may or may not spoil things for people, and that’s usually not so bad when the book’s been out for some time. But for a brand new, squeaky baby book, that’s a huge offense for me. No one deserves to have a book that’s only been out a couple weeks to be spoiled for them. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemies.
Or… maybe I would. I’m kind of an ass.
Anyway, I’m trying to keep a lid on the spoilers. But I will tell you that I appreciated the little change in routine Stroud gave us with this book. And not just in the case of a new member. The structure of the story changed. This book was, essentially, the beginning of the action of the entire series’ main arc – If The Screaming Staircase and The Whispering Skull were the exposition of the central arc, The Hollow Boy was the rising action. The conflict, if you will.
(HAH. TAKE THAT, 4th grade English teacher, for doubting my fiction skills.)
The cliff-hanger ending proves my point really. Because, even though The Whispering Skull ended on a bit of a cliffy as well, you sort of knew that things weren’t going to change too much. You knew that, on the flipside, things wouldn’t be that different. Not this one. This cliffy says, “Change is coming. Be prepared.”
Personally, I’m not prepared at all. But I am really, really, really excited for the next book. Too bad I’ll have to wait a year to get my grubby paws on it. (;_;)