Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head by Lauren Oliver and H.C. Chester

Blessed with extraordinary abilities, orphans Philippa, Sam, and Thomas have grown up happily in Dumfrey’s Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities, and Wonders. But when a fourth child, Max, a knife-thrower, joins the group, it sets off an unforgettable chain of events. When the museum’s Amazonian shrunken head is stolen, the four are determined to get it back. But their search leads them to a series of murders and an explosive secret about their pasts. – Goodreads

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1930’s New York is a lively setting for four orphans living in a Museum of Oddities to work together to solve a mystery.  Philippa, Sam, Thomas, and Max each possess unique qualities –  minding reading, super strength, elasticity, and deadly knife throwing.  Their lives are not glamorous though, their abilities are not fail-safe and they still go through the struggles associated with early teenage years – anxiety, shyness, and self-doubt.  Dumfrey’s Museum survives financially by attracting visitors to view the strange collection of worldly wonders as well as a freak show of sorts featuring the orphans and the array of odd inhabitants of the house.  Their fortunes begin to rise when an Amazonian shrunken head is procured for the museum however shortly thereafter the head is stolen and the museum is in danger of permanent foreclosure.

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Sculpted by KreatureKid

I read a lot of YA (surprise, surprise) but I haven’t read too many middle-grade novels, including Lauren Oliver’s (Liesl and Po, The Spindlers).  Unfortunately, I couldn’t connect with the young protagonists or get behind their search for the thief of the shrunken head.  About a third of the way through the book, the plot seemed on repeat – do some digging, someone’s dead!, do some digging, someone’s dead! – literally everyone kept kicking the bucket.  The mystery (and murders) were solved in the end while leaving a larger mystery arc to be continued in the second book Curiosity House: The Screaming Statue, due out in 2016.  The Shrunken Head was likable enough, the story was a bit slow in the middle and the mystery reveal was a little predictable.  That said, I will probably read The Screaming Statue, picking it up from my local library.

In other Lauren Oliver news, the author shared that Before I Fall (one of my favorite novels from Oliver) is being made into a movie staring Zoey Deutch (Beautiful Creatures, Vampire Academy), see here.  There had been previous talks about developing the novel into a movie and then even a TV show with Emma Roberts.  Third time’s the charm?

Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head will be released September 29th, 2015.  A big shout-out to Harper Collins for sending me a copy for review ❤