It Started With A Whisper by A.W. Hartoin
Publisher: A.W. Hartoin
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: 399 Pages
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: Best Book
Review by: Jasmine
Wishes are powerful things, if you belong to the MacClarity clan. You can ask Ernest for anything and he’ll make it come true, even though he’s been dead for nearly a hundred years. Puppy MacClarity doesn’t take the rumors about Ernest too seriously. But when he’s had enough of his teacher’s harassment, Puppy asks Ernest to take care of Miss Pritchett for him. Ernest does and family secrets start to surface like magic. During a summer filled with both fear and fun, Puppy begins to realize that Ernest isn’t the only special thing about his family, and their oddities aren’t just skin deep. Too bad he didn’t know sooner.
Every time I hear the name of this book, it makes me want to dance around the room and sing for a minute, I loved it! I mean – with crazy ravens, weird cats, a vengeful, spitting llama, genius older cousins, a boy named Puppy, mysterious moms and a protective ancestral ghost – what’s not to love?
This family is completely dysfunctional but in the best possible way. The best part about this family, though, is that even though everyone is different, they all love and support each other no matter what, even when they don’t agree. While blood-related family is very important to all of them, they also pull others into their “pack” and consider them family. If anyone messes with someone in their pack, they will end up answering to all of them. The presence of unconditional love, acceptance and loyalty is never questioned by family or friends throughout the book and the kids all stick together like glue. Every teenager should get to experience this environment.
Initially, I wasn’t too sure about reading a book with a main character named Puppy. Then, I started reading it and found out that not only was it a nickname from his mom but it had also carried over to school, teachers and friends and it became even weirder. But somehow it worked. It gave the character a chance to rise above what you expect with a moniker like “Puppy”. Puppy is a lovable, easy-going typical teenager most of the time, but the protective man in him rises to the surface when needed. Puppy stumbles into some adventure (and trouble), with rest of the pack right there to help him, but ultimately there is a moment when it comes down to Puppy alone. In that moment, I think we see Puppy transition from the more innocent childhood days to his real journey to the person he will eventually become.
The pack spends the summer at what they all call “camp”, which is some rural family property with a lake, a creek and woods. With the ever-present ghost of Puppy’s ancestor, shown in very interesting and fun ways, and the question of exactly what it is the moms can do, there is an element of intrigue and mysticism that carries through the entire book. The plot moves along very smoothly and is, at times, fast-paced with some moments that kept me on the edge of my seat.
With two sets of twins, plus moms that are twins, and a multitude of friends and other people that make appearances in the book, it would be easy to start confusing characters but the author does an excellent job of making them all very individual. Even the animals become unique and memorable. This book is very well written, with enough twists and turns to keep my attention from beginning to end, including one incredibly late night.
One of the things that I loved is the song list at the beginning of the book. Throughout the book various characters (usually the moms) are singing different songs – which will end up being one of the songs from the list. I love music and it’s usually a big part of the lives of most of the teenagers that I know, so I love that this is included as a focal point and not just as a background element. In contrast, one thing I was slightly confused by was the elephant. Was it a way to give honor or invoke/evoke? I was just never really sure. I don’t want to say much more than that because I don’t want to give anything away.
There are a lot of lessons to be learned with this book, but not in an in-your-face kind of way. The lessons are subtle, which is perfect for young adults. It is fun, reads at the perfect pace, with mystery, intrigue and hilarious antics of some of the more zany members of the pack. I’ve read that this might be a series (not confirmed by any reliable sources) and I’m really hoping that they are right. I would love to spend some more time with this group. They were just a lot of fun and I was always anxious to see what sort of mess they were going to get themselves into next!