Thursday, December 8, 2011
by Kenneth Oppel
Ben Tomlin was an only child for thirteen years. Then his parents brought home a baby chimp.
It isn't long before Ben is Zan's favourite, and Ben starts to see Zan as more than just an experiment. His father disagrees. Soon Ben is forced to make a critical choice between what he is told to believe and what he knows to be true -- between obeying his father or protecting his brother from an unimaginable fate. (description from author's website)
I was really impressed with the majority of this book. I loved the relationship between Ben and Zan, Ben's friendship with the research assistant, Peter, and the troubled family dynamics that Oppel explored once Zan became part of Ben's family.
To truly appreciate some aspects of this book, you have to remember that it's set in the 1970's. Oppel drops a lot of great hints, but it's not until a small, but significant portion of the book has been read, that Ben confirms the year. It was nice to finally know for sure that this was the 70s.
Once you knew the setting, though, it makes the perfect backdrop for not only the familial issues that Ben was experiencing, but also for his troubled romantic life. The sweetness of his attempts to worship the pretty, popular girl and his complete and utter failure to finally win her. (Don't worry...not a true spoiler! There are other happenings in the cards for Ben!!)
The real star of this book, though, will always be Zan. Not only is he unique and interesting simply because he is a chimpanzee, but he is lovable and sweet because of who he was raised to be. Zan is his own, fantastic character that steals the show 100%.