The premise of this book is fascinating: A young boy who has a hard time finding his place in life goes to live with his aunt and uncle, and stays in a room that has 100 cupboards on the wall. With the manipulation of a couple of dials, the cupboards will take him to a variety of different worlds, some dangerous, some friendly, all fanciful. This is a perfect juvenile book, because what kid hasn’t wanted to find something like that and take advantage of it? I went through that when I was a kid, and I think that’s part of the reason why The Phantom Tollbooth was such a favorite books of mine (still is, actually).
The thing is, the premise was probably too promising. I’m not sure when it became commonplace for juvenile and YA authors to write in a telling style over a showing style. I mean, I sort of understand it: Your audience isn’t as attuned to subtlety as an adult would be, so you sometimes have to make your point more directly. Unfortunately, there are a lot of kids’ books that use subtlety to tell the story — any of the Harry Potter books and Sachar’s Holes are prime examples — so I’m not sure why some authors choose to tell instead of show. It just makes the book that much harder to read.
Aside from the narrative, the story was interesting enough to keep me reading, though it didn’t really resonate with me. I had a good idea how the book was going to end, based on the way that the author presented the main characters, so I was reading to see if I was right, if nothing else. I didn’t feel much of an emotional attachment to the characters, though I thought the relationship between the main character and his uncle was interesting. By the end, though, I was just reading to finish the book.
With 100 Cupboards, I think my expectations were too high for me to really judge the book objectively. I’m sure that kids would like it, but it’s not a juvenile book that translates well for the adult reader.