In Hollywood, there is a saying that "any publicity is good publicity." In most cases, I would disagree with that statement. But with Anthony Horowitz's Groosham Grange, that statement is very true.
This book has received a somewhat revitalizing surge in orders recently, due primarily to the constant comparison to Harry Potter. The books both concern fantasy schools, dark secrets, and themes that just *might* be too explicit for kids to be reading. There are a lot of instant haters of the book who call it a "rip-off" of the popular series and denounce it as poorly written or plotted. In reality, all of this "controversy (which really isn't big enough to call it even that) is good, because it is bringing a new readership to this book series, which really isn't all that bad.
Groosham Grange is about a young boy, David, who escapes his abusive parents and gets selected to go to a special school off the coast of Scotland. On the train there, he meets two friends, a boy and a girl, and together the three stick through it at their new, sinister academy. What ensues is a suspenseful mystery that delivers on many levels.
I had never read anything by Horowitz before I read this, and, honestly, still don't think I'll continue on to any of his other works. I am a high school senior and don't know if "young adult" is really my favorite genre anymore, but I do love Harry Potter, so I bought this book (cheap) and gave it a try.
I was surprised. When boiled down to summary form, the plot of this novel sounds incredibly like that of Harry Potter's. This novel, however, came first (1988, to be exact) and therefore has its own original authenticity. The book is actually quite dark, some scenes that are comedic have an almost Charles Dickens-esque way of making you laugh, but question the atrocities that are being comitted at the same time.
The writing is very simple and easy to get into. In fact, I read this book in day. Some may take that to mean that this is a short book, which, I'm not going to lie, it is. But its not all that much of a bad thing. There are no fluffy filler scenes, nor is there wasted description. It is refreshingly straightforward, revealing itself to be as well plotted as modern NY-Times bestsellers. At the same time, it isn't all too predictable. Although I figured out a few of the twists prematurely, there were still some surprises in store, and younger readers (for whom this book is intended) won't be able to recognize the clever tricks the author uses for plausibility.
As a whole, this novel (novella?) was a fun quick read, and I do plan on continuing with the next book in the series: Return to Groosham Grange: The Unholy Grail