Book Review: ‘The Shrunken Head’ by Lauren Oliver

23277166In this life, my only regret will be that I didn’t get to read Lauren Oliver’s The Shrunken Head when I was younger. The story is a charming — albeit kind of creepy — tale about brilliant children blessed with extraordinary abilities. Younger audiences will definitely enjoy Lauren Oliver’s humor and wit. I, however, found the story somewhat predictable and just a little grating.

Philippa, Sam and Thomas are orphans blessed with extraordinary abilities. They’ve grown up happily in Dumfrey’s Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities and Wonders until a fourth member — the knife-throwing Max — joins the group. What happens next is an unforgettable chain of events, starting with the looting of the museum’s Amazonian shrunken head. In the orphans’ search for the head, they uncover a series of murders and an explosive secret about their pasts.

Although The Shrunken Head started off shakily, by the middle of the novel, I thoroughly enjoyed the ensemble cast. It highlights each character’s unique personality while advancing the novel as a whole. (Plus, there’s some really funny bickering that’s reminiscent of my arguments with my siblings.) The characters work well together, and their special abilities aren’t the run of the mill special powers. From super ability to super strength, let’s just say that The Shrunken Head turns out to be super cool! (And I’m super sorry for overusing the word “super!”)

While at times I loved the author’s attempt to be humorous, at other times I felt the humor to be quite forced. Take, for instance, this snippet from the official synopsis:

What you will NOT find in this book:
– An accountant named Seymour
– A never-ending line at the post office
– Brussel sprouts (shudder)
– A lecture on finishing all your homework on time
– A sweet, gooey story for nice little girls and boys.

While some kids might find an appeal to their supposed hatred of brussel sprouts funny, I feel that others will not. Oliver, in an attempt to be conventionally humorous, often ends up grating and forced.

This being said, Oliver’s story is genuinely an intriguing, eye-opening read. The plot is quite refreshing, even if the humor is not. The Shrunken Head is a captivating blend of fantasy, mystery and adventure. I will definitely be reading the sequel for the interesting plot, but maybe not for its humor.

Rating: 7 out of 10
Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s Books (September 29th, 2015)
Length: 368 pages (Hardcover)
ISBN #: 9780062270818
Source: ARC kindly provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Valerie is sixteen. She attends a boarding school near Boston, where she writes, reads, and attempts to be a studious student. She's too lazy to write the rest of this bio, so follow her on Twitter @torquoiseworld because shameless self-promotion is alive and thriving!