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THINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE NIGHT!
Room 13 - Robert Swindells
Member Name: tange
Room 13 - Robert Swindells
Date: 01/07/03, updated on 01/07/03 (5713 review reads)
Advantages: Spooky and interesting story, Nice location
Disadvantages: Slightly predictable storyline
After re-reading and really enjoying Robert Swindell's Post Nuclear story Brother in the Land I was inspired to read one of his other books (a boy returned it in the library and I snaffled it for myself) ~ Room 13. Room 13 is a very different story to Brother in the Land and I vaguely remembered reading it years ago. I once read that the reason that children, young adults and teenagers like Swindell's books is because they are not too long, keep your interest and are pretty easy to read (by this I mean the use of language and not the subject matter ~ I wouldn't call the images used in Brother in the Land particularly "easy"). Room 13 seems to fit this Swindells pattern; it isn't long, it is written for a young audience (Swindells was even aided by a group of young children to come up with some of the plot twists) and uses young people as its main characters. So, would I as a thirty something adult find something of interest in Room 13.
Room 13 begins on the night before a school trip to Whitby. Fliss (the main character) has a really bad nightmare about a rather sinister looking house with an even more sinister looking secret room ~ Room 13. She is disturbed by the dream but puts it out of her mind until she arrives at their hotel in Whitby. The Crow's Nest Hotel looks suspiciously like the house in the dream of the previous night ~ her hair stands on end and she is very worried that her dreams of Room 13 will come true! On their first investigation Fliss and her friends can't find a room 13 ~ but once night falls spooky things start to occur.
What follows is a scary story of Vampires and the realisation of the feeling Fliss had on arriving at the Crow's Nest. I don't want to give too much away, but it is full of suspense and the atmosphere of Whitby provides a good backdrop for the Vampire elements of the story.
~~~WHAT I THOUGHT.
Room 13 is essentially a book for o
lder children and younger teenagers, so don't expect too much in the way of complicated plot devices. That said, it is still an interesting story with some good imagery, a very good sense of place (the backdrop of Whitby is well used) and the action ticks along nicely ~ you do get some twists and turns in there, but the story IS quite predictable. This is perhaps where the book lets us down ~ Fliss has a dream; low and behold THERE is the house from the dream and of course we can then all guess that there is going to be a Room 13 with some funny things going on! I did find that the story was good though and the minor irritation at the "obviousness" of the plot didn't prevent me from enjoying the adventure and the mystery of the School Trip.
The story is written from the perspective of Fliss herself, so the words used are those that a young girl would use. We really only get to see things from her viewpoint, but because she IS pretty much a central element of the plot this works very well. There is a good mix between the spooky scenes and images of the children exploring and enjoying a school trip ~ eating rock, looking at the scenery, etc. You may find some of Swindell's descriptions of the trip irrelevant but I think they are necessary to introduce some normality to the children's trip and to provide a balance for the supernatural elements ~ it will make younger children remember that not everything is spooky and they shouldn't have nightmares!
I would say this book is more suitable for an older child who is pretty good at reading ~ a younger child would still enjoy the story but may find some of the words difficult and the images a little scary (there are vampires and spooky things happening). I enjoyed it because I could identify with the setting; I have been to Whitby several times and love the place. It may be of interest to children who have also been to Whitby for holidays ~ I'm not sure if it would be a goo
d idea to encourage them to read it BEFORE they go on a trip there (you never know if the hotel they will end up staying at might look like The Crow's Nest!).
I actually enjoyed Room 13 and found it refreshing after being depressed by Brother in the Land. Robert Swindells has an ability to write fiction for a young audience, but his work can also appeal to an older audience too. I would certainly recommend Room 13 as an easy reading story for those who want a little scare but don't want to be challenged too much. Take care and don't have nightmares ~ I went to Whitby at the beginning of June and I made sure I remembered to pack my garlic!
Book info (courtesy of www.amazon.co.uk)
Paperback - 160 pages (5 October, 2000)
Corgi Childrens; ISBN: 0440864658
Hardcover - 160 pages (October 1989)
Doubleday; ISBN: 0385269676