Book review: The Deadly 7 by Garth Jennings

When I go book shopping, I mostly know what I’m going to buy before I step into the shop. Not because I am a control freak with a tendency to meticulous planning (who, me?), but because I pretty much know what the new releases are already. That’s why I like it when my boyfriend comes along. He’ll disappear into the children’s section for a few minutes and then return brandishing books about evil mastermind cats, pirates that moonlight as ballet dancers, or – as in this case – seven little monsters.

After his parents go to Spain to try to find his big sister who has gone missing during a school trip, Nelson finds helping to fix the plumbing at St. Paul’s Cathedral with his rather unusual Uncle Pogo. Whilst attempting to plug the leak, Nelson and Pogo stumble upon a hidden room containing a weird machine that extracts the seven deadly sins from inside Nelson and personifies them as seven individual, but equally hard to handle, little monsters all hell bent on finding Nelson’s sister, Celeste. Using their bizarre tracking skills and unusual abilities to help them along the way, Nelson and the monsters set off on a journey around the world that leads to some strange discoveries about Nelson’s family, but can they get to Celeste in time?

One of the things that I really love about this book is that Celeste is actually Nelson’s older half sister. As a half sister myself with two little brothers, it was nice to see this relationship from their perspective. Obviously, it makes it even more appealing that Nelson worships the ground his sister walks on (as, of course, do my brothers!!), but it did make me appreciate how rare it is for this relationship to be covered in children’s books; it feels much less explored than the situation where the main character is the older sibling dealing with their Mum or Dad having more children in a second marriage. Granted, there’s a lack of magical amulets, murderous twins, and tiny monsters in my family, but even so, it’s always nice to find a premise you can really relate to in a book.

The other major plus point for me is (obviously), the monsters. Who wouldn’t want seven smelly, greedy, funny, self serving monsters that only you can see following you around all day? I think a little more could have been done to exaggerate the personality of each monster and tie it into their own deadly sin, particularly to ensure that a child would be able to understand, but even so the characterisation was well done. I found the monsters pretty lovable, even when they were at their most gross!

The story was enjoyable and funny, full of ridiculous happenings in the way that any good sitcom should be. Given that Garth Jennings is a Hollywood movie Director, it isn’t surprising that the plot feels very cinematic. The scenes fit nicely into the big screen time frames and descriptions feel akin to a camera panning across the view. The visualisation is helped along by lots of funny illustrations (also done by Garth Jennings).

The only negative I can find is that it felt a little like everything, including the kitchen sink, was thrown at the story. There was just a little bit too much going on, and because of this it felt like there wasn’t time to go into some of the key plot points in enough detail and I struggled to keep up with what was going on.

I would totally recommend The Deadly 7 as a funny bedtime read full of heart.

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