Title: The Oddfits
Author: Tiffany Tsao
Publication Date: Feb 1 2016
Genre: Fantasy / Urban Fantasy
Amazon Link: here
Eight-year-old Murgatroyd Floyd doesn’t fit in—not as a blue-eyed blonde living in Singapore, not in school, and certainly not with his aloof expatriate parents, who seem determined to make his life even harder. Unbeknownst to him, there’s a reason why he’s always the odd boy out: he is an Oddfit, a rare type of human with access to the More Known World, a land invisible to most people. Yet unfortunate circumstances keep Murgatroyd stranded in the Known World, bumbling through life with the feeling that an extraordinary something is waiting for him just beyond reach.
Seventeen years later, that something finally arrives when a secret organization dedicated to exploring the More Known World invites Murgatroyd on a mission. But as the consummate loser begins to grow into the Oddfit he was meant to be, the Known World becomes bent on exterminating him. For once in his underachieving life, will Murgatroyd Floyd exceed expectations and outsmart those trying to thwart his stupendous destiny?
The Oddfits is written in the same quirky style as The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August (which I love) but lighter, or as the Insanity series (which I also love) but less insane, or as Alice in Wonderland (guess what? I love this one too!) but more mature and a tiny bit less whimsical… you get the gist. I love this realistic but humorous style of writing that I feel is getting more popular now than ever before, but this book is missing some of the depths which the others use the style to portray. Looking back at what I just read, I see no actual message or moral. It’s a nice story, sure, but one without any meaning, which was especially pronounced in the rather anti-climatic, unremarkable ending, which was paced exactly like the rest of the book. Actually, when I looked at the percentage done on the bottom of my kindle at some point I was shocked to find it at 99% – no major changes happened to the action, no major lessons were learned… there was an attempt at both these things at the very end, but it feels very sudden and not properly built up, and Murgatroyd changes his perspective very quickly, after years of refusing to, because it fits the story.
However, I still love the idea of the More Known World. One of the best things about the book was slowly finding out more about it, so I won’t spoil that, but the general concept is that of a world beyond ours, contained within ours, which only a select few can access. It does not conform to the laws of physics as directly as we would or to any general laws about what is what, is really refreshing and an ingenious idea which is what holds much of the book up apart from the main character, Murgatroyd Floyd.
The story is set in Singapore for no reason at all – which is absolutely amazing. Nobody is making any excuses that magic is stronger there or anything like that, and it comes across that the author entirely believes the Singapore is as legitimate and normal a setting for a story as England or the US, which I love. The descriptions of Singapore feel (to my limited opinion as a person who knows very little about the country) very genuine and not sugar-coated, but also not overly negative – it’s a place people live, with some cultural differences to other places where other people live, and there are good and bad things to it. It was clear that unlike books such as The Gatekeeper’s Son by C.R. Fladmark, this book is written by an author who has lived in Singapore for a long time, not by a white man fetishising a culture for their own amusement. A quick minute of research confirmed that Tiffany Tsao indeed grew up in Singapore.
While I loved Murgatroyd, the other characters had many faults. They were often very simplified and stereotypical (ahemFloydparentsahem), and while they served their in-story purpose – to make Murgatroyd feel an outsider, therefore gathering sympathy from the reader – they were two-dimensional in every other aspect and there was, in my opinion, not a sufficient explanation as to why exactly they were so cruel. There were whole sections explaining backstories, but these failed to truly expand on the characters as they should have. I will readily admit, though, that I did hate many characters with a passion, especially Murgatroyd’s parents, and the narration in each chapter not focussed on Murgatroyd was genius, as while it was in third person all the way through, it was obvious the characters themselves were the ones passing judgements and making excuses, and it made me despise them as people even more.
I liked this book for the most part. I’m conflicted about the sequel, as it would have made a really great cliffhanger stand-alone, and what I really want is a prequel from uncle Yusuf’s point of view. Is that too much to ask?
ARC provided by NetGalley