Augie Hobble lives in a fairy tale world… well… more like the run down amusement park, Fairy Tale Place, that his father manages. His life is horrible: he failed creative arts and has to take summer school, the girl he likes doesn’t bother with him, and the school bullies won’t leave him alone.
To top it off he might be turning into a werewolf! Well, at least he has his notebook and Britt, his best friend, to confide in. That is until the unthinkable happens and Augie’s life gets even worse and every event in his life takes on a new meaning.Lane Smith’s Return to Augie Hobble is a wonderful anachronistic mess. That’s a good thing I swear. The whole atmosphere of the park is that it’s out dated. Not only with its technology but it’s theme as well. Parts of the park mimic popular films like Shrek and Fievel Goes West (films I watched when I was a child), but most of the park is made up of dilapidated fairy tale sets with chipped paint and hollowed insides.
As Smith showed us Fairy Tale Place, I was reminded of Story Book Land, a small amusement park about an hour away from me, which was in the same physical state as Fairy Tale Place when I was small. The park gave me a sense of realism that might not translate to others who do not live near such a place.
True to the criteria for the age category, every one older than Augie is incompetent. His father keeps stealing ideas from films and other parks but doesn’t implement them well, the teens don’t care about their jobs, the other adults in the park just go through the motions, and no one listens to Augie about all the weird stuff that happens.
Some where toward the end though, the organization fell apart. Suddenly there are werewolves and ghosts of dead friends. And Augie just didn’t react to it. Which is just crazy because there was a build to it from pretty early on in the book. Augie finds passages in his journal that he doesn’t remember writing. He should have had some thoughts on his dead best friend leaving him messages in his journal and then talking to him in his head.
And let’s just have a moment to reflect on the actual werewolf in the middle of the book that never gets explained or touched on again. It’s like a grenade went off and no one bothered to clean up the debris.
I’m also not a fan of the fact that everything seems to improve him when his friend dies. Augie doesn’t stand up to his bullies, Britt does. Augie only partially moves on to make a new friend in Claire the clairvoyant booth attendant after Britt is gone. And all of his peers are suddenly smitten with him after seeing what Britt did in the classroom. Augie didn’t really have any growth.
The most depth we see of him is when he thinks he killed his best friend with a cookie. And that’s only for a few fleeting chapters!
Return to Augie Hobble started out great, really cute, and very interesting, but the end was full of confusing scenes and it just felt like Lane Smith was trying to cram too much into the last fourth of the book.