Book Review: Shortcuts (Book 1) by Brittlestar


Title: Shortcuts (Book 1)

Author: Brittlestar aka Stewart J.W. Reynolds

Release date: December 19th, 2011

If you’ve read any of my reviews over the last few years, you know that I typically share how a book came onto my radar at the start. Some are straightforward, some are a bit funny and some are an odd amalgamation of random occurrences that all line up.

This is one such book that came onto my radar just that way.

Brittlestar. For many of you in Canada, who frequent Twitter, you may have seen his comedic, This Hour Has 22 Minutes style videos and tweets. A sarcastic take on everyday life. He also has poignant, introspective moments and all of that has led to him being a daily source of laughs and conversation.

A few weeks back, I came across one of his videos and thought it was hilarious. Knowing he may find it hilarious, I sent it to Andrew Pyper. He replied; “Oh yeah, he’s funny. I actually went to high school with him!.” Huh, that’s crazy right?

Well… if you’ve also followed me, you may very well know that I’m a massive super fan of Mr. Andrew Pyper and in my ongoing quest to have the most complete printed collection (DANG YOU ORACLE AND YOUR AUDIBLE ONLY RELEASE!!) I frequent Abebooks weekly, seeking out missing pieces. And on one such search, a blurb from Andrew about ‘Shortcuts’ popped up. I messaged Andrew, he said it was a really fun book, and liking the synopsis, snagged it.

BOOM! See? A random amalgamation of seemingly completely unrelated events that led me to reading this book and – it turns out – having a really run time with it.

Alright enough about that – let’s get to the goods.

What I liked: ‘Shortcuts’ follows our young main character, Simon Trekker, as he lives a seemingly normal life. That is, other than living with his aunt and uncle after his parents disappeared on a trip when he was a small child. One day, as Simon heads off to school, he randomly is transported somewhere else while taking a shortcut. Once this happens, he shares it with his two best friends and they have fun, going to different places around the world.

That is, until a rich bully from his school discovers this and things go sideways and escalate.

From here, our author gives us a really fun, action-packed middle-grade adventure story. We get thrills galore and a really intriguing backstory where we learn more about these portals, their discover and what had been originally planned for them.

I thought the characters were all fun, even a few of the stereotypical variety (but hey, this is a middle grade book) and the story played out at a really great pace.

The ending was great and the set up for a potential sequel was really well done.

What I didn’t like: I’m not going to pick apart some of the cheese in this book. The reality is, I’m a 40 year old male. This book wasn’t written for me as the target demographic, so I can let those parts slide. What I will say – this came out in 2011, so it was a bit frustrating seeing such an intriguing ending and understanding that there most likely won’t be a sequel, or if there is, those kids who loved this a decade ago, will most likely not care when it is finally released.

Why you should buy this: If you’re the parent of an early reader (say aged 7-12) and you’re either now starting to read them chapter books, or they’re reading on their own and you want a safe read; think no swear words, no sex, no deaths, no animal peril – this is a spot on perfect read for them.

The pacing is crisp, the story opens up really nicely and when all is said and done, this does finish with a great conclusion. It’s the epilogue that may give parents headaches as they beg for book 2!


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