Boundless by Kenneth Oppel

BoundlessCindy: There are times when Lynn’s and my literary tastes don’t match up, but usually when she begs me to read a book I should listen to her and respond immediately. She has been raving about The Boundless (Simon & Schuster 2014) for months, as have many other readers (it published in April so you can get on board the caboose of this Kenneth Oppel fan party with me if you haven’t read this adventure novel yet.) Yes, young Will Everett is in for quite the adventure when he takes the first ride on the newly finished Boundless train, one that stretches for miles and includes a traveling circus among its nearly 1000 train cars. It’s also historical fiction with statistics and details about the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway in the late 1800s woven into the story, and fantasy too with sasquatch beasts roaming the countryside (and one captured for Mr. Dorian’s circus–a man who rivals Barnum for trickery and hoax). There’s murder and mystery and plenty of danger. Will gets separated from his first class accommodations and has to keep safe the key that would open the funeral car and endanger its treasures to thieves, but Oppel keeps the plot twisting. From moonlit runs and leaps across the top of the moving train to hypnosis to the evil Muskeg hag to circus acts there’s plenty of action to keep readers turning the pages and Oppel keeps the story elements securely coupled for a smooth ride. This journey is a true coming of age story as Will witnesses the social class structure on the train and also comes to terms with his own talents and dreams and how those clash with his father’s plans for him. All aboard, my friends. You don’t want to miss this literary trip.

Lynn:  Ahem, did you all read Cindy’s first line?  She should listen and respond immediately??  Take note of that please!  Of course I won’t mention the books on my stack that SHE has asked me to read and I haven’t gotten to yet.  Still, I’m savoring the moment.

But back to Boundless.   I did love this journey and its many twists and turns.  There is a lot to keep track of from lovely young escape artist Maren, to “imaginary” creatures that are anything but imaginary.  The train itself is practically a character and I loved the way Will’s eyes are opened to the realities of social stratification as he moves forward through the cars.  The world-building is as compelling as the dangerous adventure and the door is left ajar at the end for readers to imagine what Will’s next journey will be.  This is a trip readers will love taking.

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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