Title: Strange Metamorphosis
Author: P. C. R. Monk
Marcel is considering a difficult choice – one that will decide his future. But making that decision is put on hold when a giant oak tree starts gradually turning him into a bug. Forced to carve his own path and follow his heart, he sets off on extraordinary journey. He soon finds himself teaming up with a wonderful group of insects, each of which has their own agenda. And with time running out and his existence in peril, Marcel must fight to the finish, or die a bug.
I picked this up because the boy turning into a bug idea sounded somewhat interesting. I wasn’t so sure about the coming-of-age themes, because those had the potential to be too preachy or theme-y.
Marcel was fun. He was absent-minded, frequently oblivious, and not very good at making decisions for himself. He was also way, way too trusting, to the point of being gullible, which got on my nerves every once in a while. Sometimes I just wanted to yell, “haven’t you learned yet?” He was still very fun, though, especially as his journey made him step up and take charge of his own life.
The whole story was excellent. The main plot is Marcel trying to survive life as a bug and get to the royal jelly in time. That involved a super-fun cast of bug characters, including a flighty bee, a pessimistic beetle, and a very quirky inchworm – plus a bunch of bugs who want to stop or hinder Marcel for some reason or another. There was also a minor romance plot: Henriette’s father wants Marcel to marry Henriette, but Marcel likes Julia who doesn’t seem to like him. It was all brilliantly done, light-hearted, and interesting.
One of the problems I had with the book was that the bugs called Marcel “a marcel,” like it was a species. That wouldn’t have bugged (no pun intended) me so much if the narration hadn’t started calling him “the marcel” on occasion, like it really was his species. I looked up “marcel” in the dictionary, and Miriam-Webster told me it was a female hairstyle characterized by a certain type of curl. It might mean something different in French, but every time I read that, it made me think of curly hair.
The whole book had the feel of a French classic, or a very old (yet still good) children’s story. There were a few phrasings that were a little modern and seemed out of place, but for the most part, I could easily imagine it being written in 1911, when it’s set.
I’m glad I gave Strange Metamorphosis a chance. It was light-hearted, yet there was plenty of danger. It was fun, but there were strong emotional and coming-of-age plots worked in. In general, a great pick-me-up read.
I received a free review copy of Strange Metamorphosis from the author. His generosity in no way influenced, or sought to influence, this review.