Allison's Book Bag

Behind Green Glass by Amanda von Hoffman

Posted on: June 11, 2011

Today’s teenager market is so saturated with fantasy that paranormal offerings are featuring less common creatures such as angels, fae, familiars, mermaids, and selkies. Into this bloated market comes a novel that is not just another fantasy. Behind Green Glass by newcomer Amanda von Hoffman possesses such an innocent and sweet quality that, despite its uneven quality, I ended up really liking it.

Meet Isolde Rackham, a shy and artistic sixteen year old who blushes when introduced. She and her mother have moved into the old haunted farmhouse in Thornville. Although Isolde doesn’t initially know the farm’s troubled history, she gets this eerie sensation of being watched. To shake off creepiness, she rummages through a drawer for matching socks where she finds a false bottom with a hidden emerald colored glass. Although I will reveal that in the glass Isolde sees the mystical Lyric who believes he is a ghost, you will need to read Behind Green Glass for yourself to discover his true identity, other secrets that she uncovers, and the dangers she encounters because of all the revelations. One of Hoffman’s quiet strengths is how she builds suspense and unfolds mysteries. I will not to ruin that experience for you.

Hoffman undertook a second challenge by making Isolde an awkward and introverted teenager. Isolde is not even rebellious; she generally complies with her mother’s orders. When Isolde does defy her mother, she also contritely accepts her punishment of being sent to her room. In contrast to today’s novels with their confident and defiant female leads, Isolde may serve as a more realistic role model for shy teenagers who surely must still exist. As for me, I related to Isolde’s conflicted emotions: She loves her mom and understands her desire for solitude, but also fights against their sheltered life. She looks forward to a visit from her extroverted friend, but also fears Maria will outshine her. She wishes for the cute boy to notice her, but blushes and wishes to hide when he does. Other books that portray introverted teenagers often fail to truly capture shyness or create sullen characters that are about as appealing as a tooth extraction. In contrast, Isolde is painfully shy but endearingly real.

Description is another of Hoffman’s strengths. Her pages are abundantly decorated with tight phrases that evoke visceral sensations: “his bare feet made little noise as he ran across the field”; “as if she were a little girl again drinking warm milk sweetened with honey”; “leaves were beginning to fall and dry like tiny discarded pages”. Depending on the scene’s need, Hoffman has superbly created beauty or fear with the sheer power of words.

Unfortunately, the occasional lengthy expositions between these nifty descriptions threatened the effectiveness of otherwise charming scenes. I had already understood the relationship between Isolde and her mother through their interactions; Hoffman didn’t need to elaborate with two pages of explanation. Nor did I need a page of exposition to understand the divorce of Isolde’s parents. Some of the character speeches also suffered from the same ailment, which is why I do not refer to them as dialog. Even if in real life we know people who bore us with monologues, this doesn’t mean we will find it cute or tolerable in our fictional characters.

Its occasional overformal tone side, Behind Green Glass is a gentle book that wiggled its way into my heart. The main characters are people whom I would talk to and hang out with if they lived near me. Thornville is a pretty place. As I reached the end of each new chapter, I couldn’t wait to find about more about the farm’s secrets and the mystical creatures. The cover’s description of the book as “a fantasy novel” belies its depths; it is also a coming of age story of friendship and romance, with an underlying theme of acceptance. Amanda Von Hoffman should have a bright writing future.

My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.

How would you rate this book?


2 Responses to "Behind Green Glass by Amanda von Hoffman"

Thank you, Allison, for letting me read your copy of Behind Green Glass on your visit home. Although no longer a devotee of fantasy novels, I enjoyed the book. Its depiction of Isolde, Lyric and their families and friends and of the relationships among them made them seem like real people with the kinds of feelings and problems people actually have. Moreover the story kept me reading to see what would happen next. Like you, I think that Amanda Von Hoffman should have a bright writing future.

Thank you for taking an interest in the books I recommend to you.

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I am focusing this year on other commitments. Once a month, I’ll post reviews of Advanced Reader Copies. Titles will include: Freddy Frogcaster and the Flash Flood by Janice Dean, One Two by Igor Eliseev, Incredible Magic of Being by Kathyrn Erskine, Dragon Grammar Book by Diane Robinson, and Wide as the Wind by Edward Stanton.



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