3 out of 4 stars
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Cooper Peru by Mr. E. is a young adult fantasy about a boy who stumbles into the life of a grieving woman. This woman, Pearl, eagerly takes Cooper in and makes him her son without asking any questions. Her love for him causes her to overlook his mysterious arrival and his pointed ears; however, the students at Thacker Middle School are not as forgiving.
When mysterious creatures invade the school, leaving destruction and enormous claw marks, Cooper doesn't believe the work was performed by raccoons, as the school insists. He knows that something immense and mean is out there, and he thinks they are looking for him. He's right. Unexpectedly, he is offered a scholarship to ShadowBranch Academy, a boarding school well away from the bullies of Thacker. He eagerly accepts the offer, hoping his leaving will protect Pearl from the sharp-clawed creatures out to get him. It's not as easy as it sounds. Cooper embarks on a quest to learn more about his elven birth family and a completely different culture. He also discovers who he is as a person. Will his integrity hold? Will he master the lessons that he encounters? Will he escape the frightening beasts?
The author's writing is quite playful. There are many witty lines, puns, and allusions that made me laugh. This one, however, is my favorite: "Throngs of Thacker students were in the bleachers to see Randy compete, but mostly there to get extra credit." As a former educator, I know that extra credit is quite an enticement! Also, many of the characters have homophonic names that made me giggle. One of Cooper's friends at ShadowBranch is named Nurvis. I'll bet you can guess his personality! My favorite, though, is the name of Thacker's principal: Anita Drenk! I would say that is appropriate, especially for a middle school principal.
Additionally, there are allusions in the prose to rock bands and songs; for instance, at one point characters are discussing ravens and use the terms "black crows" and "counting crows" in consecutive sentences. And the shadowy figures stealing items from the temples made of stone? They are Stone Temple Pirates. Looking for these humorous allusions made reading the book like a bit of a treasure hunt!
I enjoyed reading about the elven ways. Instead of overwhelming readers with information, the author included details about elixirs and established traditions in the plot so that they were easy to understand. I also enjoyed getting to know many of the characters. Cooper is a loved character from the beginning since he is practically a foundling. It is easy to like him because he thinks carefully through his decisions and is loyal to his friends. The author creates Cooper's friends and teachers so that they have their own qualities. While all aren't completely developed, they are rounded enough that readers can recognize and separate them.
I give this book 3 out of 4 stars. The plot is solid, and the principal characters are thoughtfully drawn. The author clearly put considerable time into adding detail to the story not only for plot improvement but also for the reader's enjoyment on another level. However, I have to take one star for editing issues. Most of the problems concerned commas and sentence structure, but there were many, and I suggest another round or two of editing. While the book resolved itself nicely, there were a few threads that were left dangling. It didn't affect the conclusion of this book, but it keeps the option open for a sequel. If there is one, I will gladly read it.
Young adults will find this book especially attractive since the main characters are teens and tweens, but adult readers will enjoy watching Cooper grow during this exciting plot. His connections with others, especially Pearl, are heart-warming. Prospective readers should know that there are no sexual situations in this book, and I found only two instances of mild profanity.
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