Author: Lili Wilkinson
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Date of Publication: May 1st, 2011
Length: 324 pages
From the Publisher: Bee is in her element working in the taxidermy department at the Museum of Natural History, but her summer job turns out to be full of surprises:
A dead body in the Red Rotunda. A mysterious Museum benefactor. A large stuffed tiger in the Catacombs. A handsome boy with a fascination for unusual animal mating habits.
And a pocketful of glass eyes.
Can Bee sift through the clues to discover whether her mentor really committed suicide ... or is there a murderer in their midst?
I had been excited about this for a rather long time and I pretty much raced out on May 1st to get myself a copy. I’m a huge fan of Lili and her writing and was certainly not disappointed when I devoured it in an afternoon. Now I must apologise for writing the review so long after originally reading the book, which is mostly because every time I went to start writing this review I’d go ‘oh I’ll just read this one bit’ and end up re-reading half the book. Anyway, you can tell from its multiple mentions on my blog, that I enjoyed it quite a lot!
Our heroine, Bee, is definitely a girl after my own heart. Incredibly observant and a lifelong fan of detective novels, Bee is not only very smart, but has a brilliant, wry wit to her that makes her very endearing. Like Ava in Pink, I loved that Bee is slightly flawed and allowed to make mistakes through the course of the novel - in the way she navigates through the museum murder mystery and the changing relationships with both Toby and her mother, making her very real and relatable to a teen reader.
Now to the potential love interest, Toby – I don’t think I have swooned this hard in a while (and I’m not usually a very ‘swoony’ kinda gal). Call me weird, but there is something I find incredibly charming about Toby’s seduction technique of reeling off the courtship rituals of animals (seriously, did you know that male porcupines sing to the female before urinating all over them?). My love for delightfully nerdy guys (think Dr Spencer Reid in Criminal Minds or Sweets in Bones) is fairly well documented on the blog, so I don’t think it would come as a major surprise that I thought Toby received top marks in the ‘Teen Boy Love Interest’ category for me. Extra points must also be awarded for the snappy, fun banter between Bee and Toby, which remains consistent throughout. A Pocketful of Eyes also features a number of well-developed supporting characters, which certainly add to the likeability of the novel (of particular note for me were Bee’s D&D playing, fandom loving mother and her boyfriend, the Celestial Badger).
One of my favourite things about A Pocketful of Eyes is the way that Lili has successfully blended the elements of a traditional whodunit mystery with a contemporary Australian setting (another book set in Melbourne!) and the light-hearted, enjoyable style of a YA rom-com. Whilst aspects of the mystery genre are often incorporated in paranormal and dystopian YA, it was great to work nicely in a contemporary story (and I loved the way Lili references preceding literary sleuths from Poirot to Encyclopaedia to Trixie Belden).
Like any good mystery, this one had me guessing until the very end, and like any good YA, A Pocketful of Eyes has clever, fun characters, an engaging plot and a healthy smattering of pop culture references. As you can probably tell by my overuse of adjectives in this review, it's one of my favourite reads so far in 2011.
Lili Wilkinson will be appearing at the 2011 Melbourne Writers Festival in ‘In the Family’, ‘A Pocketful of Eyes’ and ‘Politics in YA’. For more information or tickets, go here.
This post is part of Aussie August - a month of sharing all-Australian reviews and content.