Foley…has found a clever conceit in the cultural obsession with above-averageness. But her readers, ages 8 to 12, will thank her for not straining to impress with an ambitious satire of the smugly brilliant. Nor does she aspire to heavy moralizing about the virtues of ordinariness. Instead, she sets herself the more modest goal of showing how even a self-proclaimed former nobody can dream up a lot of outlandish entertainment.
The New York Times Book Review
Foley’s entertaining debut takes a long time to find its focus, but those who wade through the myriad subplots and engage with the host of characters will be rewarded. The town of Remarkable is peopled by precocious children, a psychic pizzeria owner, an “exceptionally proficient” but underutilized dentist, and even an underwater lake creature. It’s also “home to the world’s two tallest trees, a celebrated science fair, and the best organic jelly that anyone had ever tasted,” and its residents are “among the most terribly interesting and talented people in the whole wide world.” There are only two ordinary citizens, 10-year-old Jane Doe and her grandfather, John Doe; much of the tale is told from the point of view of Jane, who hopes to someday discover her extraordinary quality. Unusual events are set in motion by the arrival of pirates, as well as by the terrorizing 10-year-old Grimlet twins, who play a major role in tying up the various plot threads. The satisfying ending brings Jane her heart’s desire—though not necessarily what readers have been led to expect. Ages 8–12. Agent: Faye Bender, Faye Bender Literary Agency. (Apr.)
Gr 4–6—The town of Remarkable is, well, remarkable. Everyone has an extraordinary talent—except for 10-year-old Jane Doe. Her family is exceptional, although forgetful of her existence, consisting of a math genius, an artist, an award-winning novelist, and a world-class architect. Jane's mother is designing an exceptional bell tower for the only unremarkable building in town: the post office. The bells are set to play a piece by the most famous composer in the world, who has since disappeared. Unfortunately, Jane's grandfather has stolen all the ropes in the tower. He has an extraordinary secret, though, involving the town's lake monster (of course, more remarkable than the Loch Ness Monster). Side stories of Jane's brother being in love, a pirate captain trying to be something she's not, a composer trying to be a pirate captain, three pirates on a mission, and a jelly crisis with a neighboring town coalesce around the bell tower and are resolved in the end. Jane realizes that she can contribute and that some people do remember her and understand her needs. There is much to chuckle at here. The antics of the Grimlet twins, whose mischief is so wicked that they get expelled from the school for the Remarkably Gifted, and the outlandishness of the residents' talents adds to the comedy, but with so many characters and their backstories, the book reads more like a far-fetched soap opera than a cohesive whole. Jane's coming to grips with her ordinariness and how being average has its advantages is also thrown into the mix. Ultimately, this story ends up being rather unremarkable.—Clare A. Dombrowski, Amesbury Public Library, MA
The title of this debut says it all. In the town of Remarkable, so named for its abundance of talented citizens, everyone lives up to its reputation. Well, almost everyone. With a famous architect mother, an award-winning–novelist father, a photorealistic-portrait–painter older brother and a math-genius younger sister, Jane should be just as remarkable. Instead, this average 10-year-old girl is usually overlooked. With clever wordplay, the third-person account paints a humorous and vivid depiction of this unusual community. While the rest of the town's children attend Remarkable's School for the Remarkably Gifted, Jane spends monotonous days as the public school's only attendee. Excitement suddenly enters her life when the mischievous Grimlet twins get expelled from the gifted school and sent to public school, not one but four pirates enter town and a search ensues for a missing composer. Mix in a rival town's dispute over jelly, hints of a Loch Ness Monster–like creature and a psychic pizzeria owner who sees the future in her reflective pizza pans, and this uproarious mystery becomes--if even possible--a whole lot funnier. With the help of her quiet Grandpa John, who's also forgotten most of the time, Jane learns to be true to herself and celebrate the ordinary in life. Foley tightly weaves the outlandish threads into a rich, unforgettable story that's quite simply--amazing. (Fiction. 8-12)