“The great gray beast February had eaten Harvey Swick alive.” And from this point forward I was so thoroughly pulled into young Harvey’s life that I forgot my own for a couple of days.
Bored by the dreary month of February, Harvey wishes to have some fun and is rewarded by the appearance of Mr. Rictus, whose name alone should give some indication of foreboding. Mr. Rictus promises to take Harvey away from his horrible doldrums to an enchanting place called the Holiday House where he can have fun all the day long everyday.
Of course, there’s a price to be paid for a life of non-stop fun, but Barker has created an engaging hero in Harvey and carries him through his adventures with grace and imagination. Barker also illustrates this novel with images that can be more disturbing than the text in some places, but the overall effect is marvelous.
This is not a trite young adult novel where everything works out peachy with no ramifications for the protagonist. A lesson learned through adversity can be the most treasured lesson of all, and there is a definite feeling at the end of this novel that Harvey will carry the lessons learned from Holiday House like a childhood scar. Creepy, engaging, and populated with fascinating characters, The Thief of Always is a treat.