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Posted July 3, 2011
This is a difficult review to write because I'm not certain for which age group this novel is appropriate. When I first began reading, I wasn't exactly sure what to expect, but as I read I learned that this novel is told through a series of short stories. In each chapter, Steven meets new people and trades stories with them. The story Steven chooses to tell the most is about his hat, but each time he tells the story, it is drastically different.
Originally I thought this would be a great bedtime storybook for young children as there are so many interesting stories within the novel, and it seems to be written for a younger audience. Then I came upon a story about a missionary's illicit relationship with a young woman and thought, hmmm. maybe this isn't bedtime material after all. That was the only occasion to make me feel that way, so I began to think again that perhaps it really could be read to young children regardless (skipping that one portion of the story). Then I got to the end of the book and decided to nix that idea all together as Steven meets a woman in his travels and. While the novel is not "dirty" by any means, there are some stories in it that I wouldn't want to read to my five-year-old. The more I think about it, though, I don't know if I want my middle graders to read some of those stories either, and so, as you can see, this is a difficult review to write. I'm not sure what age group the novel is appropriate for, in all honesty. As an adult, I found the concept of the novel great and thought it would be interesting for kids, as it's not really for adults, but now I'm not so sure it's for kids either. Perhaps YA will like it, though I feel like it may be beneath their reading level.
Audience aside, I think this novel was very craftily put together. Everett is a wonderful storyteller and his many different renditions for how Steven's hat came to be are very clever. I liked the coming-of-age portion of the novel as well, as Steven goes from being extremely naive to learning about the world. I also found it interesting that there are many archetypal characters within this novel and many Biblical references were made, though they are not necessarily blatant and may require some critical analysis to come upon. Overall, I think the novel was pretty good, though I could have done without the questionable portions of the stories.