Title: The Wikkeling
Author: Steven Arntson
Illustrated: Daniela J.  Terrazzini
ISBN: 9780762439034
Pages: 234 pages
Publisher/Date: Running Press Kids, c2011
Publication Date:

“Henrietta stared. She blinked and stared again. What she saw there was not a person, though it kind of looked like one. It was the size of an adult, but its face was not a normal adult face. Its skin was pale yellow and even, like pudding smoothed over a tiny nose and an even tinier chin–its small mouth dangled precariously just above. It was dressed in yellow pants and a yellow button-up shirt, and it lay on its back just like the students, its hands by its sides. Its fingers were bizarre, long translucent tapers, like candles. For a moment, it flickered out like a switched-off fluorescent light. When it reappeared, it had changed position: its pale yellow eyes were staring right at Henrietta and Gary.” (84)

Henrietta suffers from House Sickness, which causes headaches and other symptoms while she’s away from her old dilapidated house. She realizes that new kid in school Gary, along with kindergartener Rose, also suffer from the same strange affliction that doctors attribute to living in wooden houses instead of the mass-produced plastic ones. After stumbling across a previously believed to be extinct wild housecat, the three children begin seeing strange things both at school and outside Henrietta’s attack. Are they related to the attic, the headaches, the housecat, or the books that are becoming more and more scarce?

I picked up this book in honor of Halloween, and I liked this book up until the end. The text was climatic, using a world that struck me as a generation or two pre-M. T. Anderson’s Feed. The Wikkeling slowly materialized as first a “was it or wasn’t it” there creature into something with substance. I loved the additional color pages and illustrations that are in the middle of the book that brought the bestiary (a book about an assortment of beasts) to life and explains all these unique animals that may or may not have previously or still exist. One of my coworkers did describe these creatures as resembling Pokemon, which I guess I have to reluctantly agree with her description, but the language is not Pokemon in tone at ALL. What did set the right tone was the silhouette drawings that can be found throughout the book, which were both creepy and ironic since it used an old style of drawing to tell this story of a futuristic and almost fantastical world.

The thing I didn’t love was the ending. I think with the last 50 pages or so, the story line just flopped. I’m reading and loving, and then of all a sudden I reach the almost end and I’ve lost all comprehension of what is going on. That’s not to say that Steven Arntson isn’t a talented author. I loved the concept and some of the things he created are REALLY COOL. However, I was left wondering “What is the whole purpose of the Wikkeling, and what was he doing?” It felt like he had written himself in a corner and couldn’t get out, or that maybe he was trying to leave an open ending and failed. The Booksmugglers seemed to share that opinion with me if you look at their review. The headaches, the attic, the housecat, and the Wikkeling were never connected in a manner that made sense to me.

Steven Arntson said it an interview that he did this intentionally and that there will ultimately be five books about Henrietta. However, I’m not sure if readers will want to wait that long to find out what’s going on, or if they want to be as perplexed as I was four more times. I’ve hesitantly classified this as fantasy, due to the fabricated creatures and hints of magic, but it could also appeal to science fiction fans with the technological aspects and horror fans because of the scarry Wikkeling. It’s almost genre-bending in that sense. Just be prepared for lots of questions at the end.