Something Strange and Deadly

Something Strange and Deadly - I’m still a bit puzzled as to why I picked up Something Strange and Deadly in the first place. Lately, the YA genre has been a desolate wasteland for me, and a story promising zombies, a twinkle-eyed love interest, and a parasol swinging heroine should’ve been anathema to me. But I was desperate for something fluffy to read, and this was one of the only titles readily available in my library’s digital collection. After finishing it, I’m pleased I picked it up. It wasn’t life-changing, but Dennard spun a sweet and exciting tale while also avoiding some YA conventions. The story is uncomplicated. Nothing ever shocked me as I read and I correctly anticipated most of the plot twists, but strangely, that didn’t affect my enjoyment. I started off annoyed because everything seemed so simplistic. For example, to imbue the book with the 19th century Philadelphian setting, parasols, petticoats, and corsets are mentioned incessantly. And instead of subtly foreshadowing, Dennard basically screams at the reader to pay attention when anything important happens by repeating it several times and having Eleanor, the protagonist, ponder it aloud in her thoughts. The character motivations are also weak, yet the book was so fun I was able to ignore these issues. Something Strange and Deadly ended up being simple rather than simplistic. Another way Dennard overcomes her rather unembellished plot is by not shirking from difficult solutions with tough consequences. Superficially, the story suggests that teenage love is easy and a girl with pluck can empower herself effortlessly despite social opposition, yet the ending shows differently. The main characters act nobly yet they do not find unambiguously happy endings. Somehow, Something Strange and Deadly manages to be pleasant and light YA without being sugarcoated. While the plot and characters may not have surprised me, my general enjoyment of this novel did surprise me. Perhaps it’s my longstanding weakness for all things World’s Fair—the story takes place during Philadelphia’s Exposition—or perhaps it’s just Dennard’s ability to brilliantly straddle the line between simple and simplistic, but I quite liked Something Strange and Deadly and can’t wait for the sequel. (which I hear is set in Paris—eek!)