B.C. author Laura Trunkey’s dryly funny debut novel is centred around the misadventures of Lily Brook Academy’s newest student, Danny Chandelier. Danny suffers from a malady most distressing: an astonishing capacity for adequateness. Eager to rid themselves of any hint of mediocrity, panicked parents bundle up their children and fly them to Lily Brook, a school that prides itself as a place for those “with modest abilities, meager talents, and average intellect.”
As in the best children’s fiction, there are surprises galore awaiting Danny; Lily Brook is far more of a Dickensian work camp (by way of J.K. Rowling) than it is a place of learning. Trunkey follows the classic sensibilities of Roald Dahl, putting children in harm’s way whenever possible, and letting them use their own talents to find a way out.
Trunkey has a sharp wit, and readers will find much to enjoy in her clear and giggle-inducing narrative. However, she does her book a disservice by wrapping up the tale too quickly. Danny is a charming hero, but the secondary players get short shrift, and as the story speeds from peril to peril, one wishes she had spent as much time developing her characters as she did devising outlandish plot developments.
Danny Chandelier is an enjoyable yarn that will appeal to young fans of adventure novels and resourceful heroes. Dark and strange (but not too dark and strange), it should prove to be an able launching pad for Trunkey’s career.