I'm a bookworm of the highest caliber! If you see me, I'll probably be reading. There's nothing I love more than finding a good book, and then sharing it with the world!
If you've been following my reviews for any length of time, you know of my penchant for Middle Grade books. Quirky characters, important lessons, vast new worlds, all it makes me smile. I honestly believe that MG books build readers. Which is why I always look at these stories from two points of view. Would I have liked this as an MG reader, and do I think it carries over to how I read now?
When considering this book, I think your best bet would be to think of A Series of Unfortunate Events. I'll be the first to admit that I hate comparing books, but in this case it is honestly impossible not to. Two siblings, absent parents, disturbing caretakers, and a fourth wall breaking narrator all make a debut in this story. It's tough not to see the similarities. My problem was that, while both stories have a depressing atmosphere overall, Witherwood Reform School didn't have the same mildly hopeful feel to it. It was missing that bit of quirk I needed.
The writing was okay, if a bit dry at times. I'm not sure if I would have appreciated this more as a reader in the age group it is aimed at or not. I've always been a fan of writing that allows me to immerse myself in the story. While I liked Tobias and Charlotte, they never felt like true companions. That might sound odd, but I wanted to feel like I was with them, not just reading about them. Add in an ending with no discernible climax, and a to-be-continued hanging out there in the wind, and I was a disappointed reader. On the bright side, it's very easy to follow the plot and that makes this a quick read.
Would I recommend this to MG readers? I think so. I'm sure they would take a lot of what I had issues with much better than I did. There's not a lot of explanation into how things get to the level that they end up at, but there's a fair amount of adventure and intrigue towards the middle. I don't see many adult readers enjoying this, but younger readers might just eat this up. For that I'll give it three stars without a second thought.