Book Review: “Agatha Oddly. The Secret Key” by Lena Jones

Please note: I first published this book review on the “Goodreads”-platform on September 2, 2022. I’ve now decided to publish some of my reviews on my website.

My rating: 1 (of 5) “stars”

I bought a paperback copy of this book, published in 2018 by HarperCollins Childrens Books

This book is a total mess. It’s really bad.

The publishers promote this book for readers who are 11 years old (or older), which means it falls in the age range that’s generally considered middle grade (8-12 years); they’re clearly aiming for “young adult”-readers, but don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to market this book to younger readers as well.

The book’s heroine, Agatha Oddlow, is a super-smart 13 year old girl who lives in London and who tells her story in the 1st person present tense. For the most time, Agatha thinks and speaks like an adult, forming grammatically correct, fairly complex sentences. At other times, she thinks and speaks like a pre-schooler, unable to distinguish between “me” and “I” (me and Dad, same as me, etc.). Her cultural references would make sense, if she were a woman in her 50s, but not if she’s a 13-year old girl. The character’s obession with the fictional character Hercule Poirot is also totally lame – for a 13-year old girl; And even if a 13-year old girl were super-smart, she would still only be 13 years old – which impacts emotional development, for example. 13-year old girls are not adults, but this character thinks, speaks, and draws conclusions like an adult. It’s ludicrous.

But she behaves like a child, and her actions consist mostly of sneaking in and out of buildings and other structures. I think the writer was angling for a movie deal, but doesn’t seem to understand that “motion” and “action” aren’t the same thing. Agatha moves around a lot – above and below ground -, but her cat solves the actual crime (don’t ask, it’s ludicrous). There’s very little real action.

There’s a subplot about some secret society, which takes up many pages, and goes nowhere. Again, I think the writer was angling for a movie deal (with sequels…). But the secret society is not actually involved in solving the crime that’s described in this book. If you cut out all the pages, which deal with the secret society, you’d lose half the book – and it wouldn’t matter in regard to the crime-story at the heart of this book.

The adults in this book consistently behave in an illogical manner – they behave like idiots, really – which would be acceptable if this story took place in a cartoon universe. The “Riddler” or the “Penguin” in the “Batman”-movies, for example, are crazy villains, and in a cartoon universe such villains make sense and are accepted by readers or the movie-going public. But this story does not take place in a cartoon universe, so the characters’ actions should resemble the actions of real people. And they don’t. If the adults in this book would behave reasonably, there would be no story, and therefore no book. (The crime depicted in this book is huge, and leads to a national crisis – but the authorities don’t seem to act at all. It’s completely unrealistic.)

The book was written by “Lena Jones,” which is a pen name for someone named “Tibor Jones” (he is the copyright owner), who I think also doesn’t exist. The book series was developed by HarperCollins and the Tibor Jones Agency. It seems they came up with this character and hired a ghostwiter to write this book. Strange.

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