A 15-year-old girl who has spent the last nine years serving cruel overlords in a dilapidated hotel breaks free and discovers who she truly is.
Allie Argos has lived at Baltimore’s Greaser Hotel since she was 6. Her parents are in prison, convicted of kidnapping. Her caretakers treat her like a slave, feeding her little and beating her regularly. Her only friends are a talking cat named Jerome and three other prisoners. Peculiar circumstances pull Allie away from the hotel and put her in contact with Zachary, a kind old man who helps her discover the secrets behind her imprisonment. As the story unfolds, the author drags Allie and her companions through a dark world free of levity or spark, the villains and crumbling hotel so broadly drawn they should be funny—but they aren’t. The people are so cruel and Allie is so simple that it is nearly impossible to get invested emotionally. This is a dark, twisted fairy story with the fun and cleverness sucked out of it, an effect that’s reinforced by Zachary’s lectures on economics and Allie’s (justified) PTSD. There’s only so much time readers can spend in a depressing world before wanting to leave it, so it helps matters very little that the inciting plot mechanics don’t kick in until just before Page 100. An overabundance of elaborate similes that just don’t work further slows readers’ progress. The book leans heavily on the works of Dahl and Snicket but lacks the adroitness of plotting and craft that would raise it to their level.
A grotesque gothic. (Fantasy. 8-12)