The Collectors by Jacqueline West

The Collectors is the first volume of a duology that explores the limits of human responsibility for the destiny of others.

The Collectors by Jacqueline West.  Greenwillow, 2018, 372 pages

Reading Level: Middle Grades, ages 10-12



Recommended for: ages 10-15

Giovanni (Van) is the only son of Ingrid Markson, a celebrated soprano who travels the world with him in tow.  Small, meek, and unassuming, he lives in her shadow.  Content to be an observer rather than an actor, he watches for the trinkets and throwaways other people drop in pursuit of their own lives.  With these he acts out scenarios with himself as “SuperVan,” protector of the weak.  One day he observes a girl sneaking pennies from a fountain, aided by an excitable squirrel.  Is she, like him, a collector?  He follows her to an underground, multilayered cavern, where he discovers a whole colony of “Collectors,” whose mission is to store up wishes and dreams.  They are protectors as well, like Van in his fantasies, shielding heedless people from the unintended consequences of their deepest desires.  As Van and Penny become allies and then friends, cracks appear in the Collectors’ stated good intentions.  Maybe they’re not the good guys after all?

This is the first of a two-volume saga, and intriguing possibilities have unfolded.  Wrapped within its unique premise are questions about power and its limits and how much one individual can control the will of another–even for their own good.  Though marketed to middle-grades, there’s a lot here for early teens to chew on as well, as they ponder their significance in a confusing world: “But small things could be powerful too . . . There were treasures everywhere.  You just had to know where to look.”  Graceful writing, well-drawn characters, touches of humor, and a twisty plot make for an enjoyable as well as thoughtful read.

Cautions: Language (one misuse of God’s name)

Overall Rating: 4.5

  • Worldview/moral value: 3.75
  • Artistic value: 4.75

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