The Land Of Stories

Do you ever wonder what you could have achieved by age 22 if you hadn't spent so much time dinking cider and black and vodka, or dancing all night and sleeping all day, or lying awake putting the world to rights with your best friend with Frasier on in the background, or waitressing for a living and going out with just a £5 and a smile, or learning to headstand in your boyfriends front room when you should have been doing homework? No, me either. Or at least, I try not to because sometimes, regrets, I have them. I mean, my life is good and I have memories that will last a lifetime and I'm pretty proud of who I am and what I've achieved but sometimes just sometimes something happens that makes you think wow, I really did not make the most of myself.

This is one of those times.

Christopher Colfer, how are you real?!

Seriously, this kid: He was so severely bullied at school that he was homeschooled for two years and now? Just look at him. He's a superstar on Glee; he's had his first book published [and that is why we are here right now, to talk about that book]; he's written and starred in a film due for release later this year; he's won a Golden Globe and been nominated for 2 Emmy awards, as well as being named GQ's man of the year and one of Time Magazines most influential people, and he's just turned 22. I don't know whether to hate him or love him. Right now loving him is winning out.

So, the book.

I didn't buy 'The Land Of Stories' because it was written by a guy off Glee. I am not that girl. I won't deny that I am a fan of Chris Colfer: I make no secret of the fact that him and Darren Criss are pretty much the only reasons I even watch that show, but I didn't buy this book just because Colfer wrote it.

And I'm being serious right now, I didn't.

I bought it because Amazon told me that I should - it does that sometimes, Amazon [sorry Jen!] emails me and says 'hey Jo, we know you've no money and a full bookshelf but look at this' and I'd been drawn in by the pretty cover before I even noticed that it was written by Chris Colfer [ooh, Land of Stories? What's that? That's a gorgeous cover. Chris Colfer? Chris Colfer?!] and I downloaded it to my Kindle because I liked the concept: the book is about two children who fall down the proverbial rabbit hole via a charmed book of stories and end up in a land full of their favourite storybook characters, it pays homage to all of those stories children have been in love with for generations.

I wondered what it'd be like actually: just because Chris Colfer can sing and dance and act and is growing into a fairly attractive young man (see above if you're still seeing him as Kurt Hummel, because the boy grew up people.) doesn't necessarily mean he can write and what if he only got a book deal because he is America's darling? Call me cynical, but these things happen.

Here's the thing: this kid can write.

"Happily ever after’ is something that you make. It’s not given to you."
-Chris Colfer

TLOS is one of those books you wish was around when you were 8 or 9; one of those books that you'd lose a weekend reading and would wish all your friends liked reading as much as you did so they could read it too, one of those books that you dove into and got lost in and wanted to live in forever. Hell, I kind of want to live in it myself and I'm about 20years older than it's target audience.

This book awakens in me some of the same feelings I have when reading Harry Potter, as in when I'm reading Potter there's always a part of me that wishes I'd been younger when those books were first released because I'd love to have experienced them through the eyes of a child, and that's how I feel about this.
I know I would have fangirled so hard over this book when I was 8, so hard because Colfer has pitched it just right: it's smart and funny and magical and the two characters are just awesome and so relatable too, if you're 8 [and pretty adorable if you're not] and some of the phrasing is gorgeous and the world he has created is the kind of world any 8 or 9 year old would want to be a part of.

It's not perfect: there are parts that could maybe do with being tightened up a touch and parts that dragged a little and some of the language is a little basic and there's a lot of 'he said, she said' but hello,  how sophisticated does it need to be: this is a kids book and I'm 29 not 9, and I think the same thing when I re-read Enid Blyton or other childhood favourites. From a pure storytelling point of view it works.  It's a smart and intelligent book, with clever interpretations on the background traditional stories - the Charming Dynasty idea is awesome, as is the Queen Red-Riding Hood/fugitive Goldilocks feud and the Evil Queen's backstory is well worth reading for. It carries a message without being patronising and it has the amusing little bits in there that are obviously aimed at the parent reading aloud [or the 29 year old with no book-buying self-control.] and I didn't guess the ending. All in all, I think Colfer can count this as another success; I can certainly think of a handful of children I'd like to read this book.

Seriously, Chris Colfer is so much more than Kurt Hummel, and Glee and I would not be surprised to see him take over the world. You read it here first.*

*unless you didn't, obviously.