The Search for WondLa, by Tony DiTerlizzi

My main reaction to this book is this: WHAT.

I picked it up knowing absolutely nothing about it except that it had a neat cover and a strange title. The “jacket” copy (I grabbed the audio version) was interesting enough, with its promises of a kid living underground and busting out and discovering new and interesting things, that I figured I could give it a listen at work. So onto my iPod it went.

Listening to it, though… eh. I missed the part on the box where it said that Teri Hatcher was narrating, and that was a pleasant surprise at first, since I do love Hatcher’s voice. But I quickly discovered that I do not like Teri Hatcher’s robot voice, or her “Dory speaking whale” voice (from Finding Nemo, of course, and which Hatcher uses for a different, alien large animal) or, in fact, her teenage girl voice, which is possibly more that I hate teenage voices and inflections in general, see that link above. Uggggggggh.

So the story, then. There is a teenage girl — well, a twelve-year-old, so almost teenage — called Eva Nine (another narrating beef: Hatcher can’t decide if it’s pronounced eh-va, ee-va, or ay-va), who lives underground with her robot MUTHR, who is, obviously, her robot mother. It’s just the two of them, and they’re training Eva to go wander around Earth, or something, I’m not quite clear on this, but the training gets interrupted when a Bad Guy comes and burns up their hidey-hole. Eva runs off, then gets captured by the Bad Guy, then escapes with a couple of friend-types who are decidedly not human, then goes back to rescue MUTHR, then decides to figure out why she is not on Earth with the humans, and then there is more travelling and adventuring and oh, the title comes from some picture that Eva finds that has just the letters WondLa visible around the picture. Uh. Huh.

I guess this is a children’s book, though I found it in the YA section (I imagine it’s for older kids, younger teens), and so I guess I can forgive a lot of the telegraphed information and things that seem obvious to me but come as a “surprise” at the end. And one of the things that I absolutely did not see coming actually makes the book make a whole lot more sense, and makes it possibly better, and I wish I had figured it out sooner so I could have appreciated it while it was happening. But I had a lot of nitpicky problems with the story; I wondered how DiTerlizzi’s version of a Babel Fish actually works or why the Bad Guy shows up in the first place or why certain things that seemed incredibly important got completely ignored for the rest of the book.

Oh, and then at the end something completely out of left field happens so that I will read the sequel. Not gonna happen.

I don’t think I would read this book again, but if I were going to go back in time and pick this book up for the first time again, I would make sure it was in book form, as apparently there are neat illustrations and, of course, I wouldn’t have to listen to the voices I disliked. And there’s an interesting thing that I didn’t check out because I didn’t want to download something, but if you are reading this with kids they’ll probably download it before you even realize — on the CDs and, I imagine, in the book are some illustrations that you can hold up to a webcam and that the aforementioned downloadable program will apparently decode and turn into some sort of interactive image or video or something? If you end up doing this, let me know what it is!

Recommendation: I think kids will like this; I think I would have liked it better as a kid, at least. I imagine that if you like DiTerlizzi’s other stuff, this is probably right up that alley.

Rating: 6/10
(A to Z Challenge)