Subtitled “The Big Time Dreams of a Small-Town Word Whiz”, this book piqued my interest because Brown Bear Daughter and I are interested in words and in spelling bees. According to the author’s note, Spelldown is Karen Luddy’s first novel, and I would say it shows some promise. However, in the end, I just couldn’t figure out the novel’s main character, which was somewhat disconcerting and off-puttting.
At first, I thought Karlene, the afore-mentioned word whiz, was a brat. She has a mouth and an attitude, and I actually said to myself, “What has this brat got to complain about?” Her older sister is marrying a guy Karlene doesn’t like. Big deal. Then, the story turned into an unorthodox-teacher-changes-my-life tale: “I, Amanda Harrison, am and extraordinary individual who fully intends to transform each and every one of you knuckleheads into a scholar of Latin by the end of the year, no matter how much suffering it causes.” Karlene is inspired, and she decides to win the county spelling bee.
THEN, we find out that Karlene does have family issues to complain about, Ms. Harrison is practically perfect in every way, and a teacher still can’t take the place of parents no matter how flawed they may be. Karlene wins a spelling bee or two and manages to find time for young love in the person of Billy Ray Jenkins.
I don’t know. It’s O.K. It just wasn’t quite there, if you know what I mean. I’d recommend you stick with Akeela and the Bee.