A young boy and his two friends discover an entirely new and fantastic world when exploring an old house in the neighborhood in Jons’ debut young-adult adventure.
Sam’s been keeping an eye on a nearby house where dark figures sprint from the front door but never seem to enter. When he learns that real estate inspectors found gold hidden in the deceased owner’s home, Sam surmises that he’d spotted thieves searching for the treasure. Hoping that there’s more gold to be found, Sam looks for a way inside, joined by his loyal dog, Jack, and his friend Peter’s sisters, Amelia and Jaime. What they find in the house, however, is a tall, shadowy man in a “funny sort of thin hat.” Zachariel claims that he’s an angel, which is only the beginning of the group’s otherworldly journey. This quirky story is written, as the title suggests, in the style of a young boy. Sam, who fancies himself a detective, meticulously details his attempts to make it inside the house. Each of the numerous trips builds suspense as, for example, Jack sniffs out a hole in the garden or the trio enters a murky room. The developing relationships are first-rate: Jack initially exasperates Sam but eventually earns his respect; and Sam learns to trust the headstrong sisters, despite rating all girls “soft and soppy.” The book’s latter half delves into the supernatural realm of angels, and though knowing Zac’s identity disappointingly lessens the dark house’s spookiness, later scenes still excite as the group battles dangerous evil forces. Jons also drops in a bit of flying, invisibility, and time travel. But it’s Sam’s adolescent mentality that makes the story something special. His frequent SSTs (Sam Smart Tips), for one, offer sound advice but are ever evolving to include angel-related guidance—“There’s nothing wrong with showing you’re hurting. I learnt that later.” He likewise adds illustrations to his notebooks and tapes to the pages copies of his written lists, which are typically random thoughts. The novel only scratches the surface of the angels’ world; the ending teases a sequel.
Opens as a thriller, ends as a fantasy, but it’s unquestionably innovative and entertaining from start to finish.