Bridger Whitt is looking for a job. It’s harder than it sounds, especially when the application made it very clear that he had to enter — on time, between 9:58 and 11:11 — through the blue door. The same blue door that happens to be up on the third floor of the house. While he could just knock at the front door, Bridger isn’t the sort of guy to give up. So it’s up the drainpipe he goes!
Fortunately for Bridger, he makes it on time and is hired as Pavel’s assistant. It’s a job that seems to entail all manner of boring, tedious, mundane duties like organizing a library, dusting books in the library, making a card catalogue for the library. Exciting things like that. But everything changes when the mermaids attack. Though, to be fair, Bridger had a hunch something was different about this job when Pavel showed up covered in troll slime. Toxic, acidic, pungent troll slime that ate a hole in his sneakers.
Between the mermaids, the unicorn, the pixies, werewolves, yetis, and other assorted monsters, Bridger’s life has taken a turn for the strange. And it’s not necessarily a good change. Astrid, his best friend since… forever, and he have had a fight that might well end their friendship completely. His crush on Leo, the handsome new neighbor across the street, isn’t as one-sided as he’d feared. But, Leo wants to be open about their relationship and Bridger isn’t ready for that, yet. His mother doesn’t even know he might be, you know, interested in boys as well as girls. Bridger loves his closet, he’s happy in his closet.
His grades are failing, he’s fighting with everyone — including Pavel, who makes him choose between his job and the man he sees as a friend as well as a mentor, and Leo. He’s even fighting with his mother, and the guys on the football team are angry with him because he wouldn’t go on a date with Leo. While Bridger’s life is falling apart the myths and monsters are being affected by something. They’re more active, more angry, and it’s getting much more dangerous to be out after dark.
Bridger is… kind of adorable. He’s clumsy, earnest, too clever for his own good, and so wrapped up in himself he’s blind to much of the world around him. Self-involved and shallow, it’s easy to see why he and Astrid had their fight, and I found myself feeling more for Astrid than Bridger. It’s a testament to the author that Bridger can be such an unreliable and completely relatable narrator.
With Bridger as the narrator, we see Leo only through his eyes. Leo is shown as being perfect, handsome, wonderful, glorious, and absolutely good. Leo comes across as too good to be true, but — and trust me on this — his perfection, even if it’s just through Bridger’s eyes, does play a role in the story. He’s confident in his dealings with Bridger, and patient enough to put up with Bridger’s obtuseness. Bridger flirts like a clumsy man tying his shoes. It happens more by accident than design, and everyone’s surprised when it works. Fortunately, Leo has a better idea of what’s happening than Bridger does and is willing to wait for the lightbulb in Bridger’s head to finally turn on. It’s cute, and they’re cute together.
The best relationship in this book, for me, is the one between Bridger and Pavel. Bridger’s father walked out on him and his mother years ago, and while Bridger doesn’t think it affected him, it very much does. While exploring a world of magic and mythology, Bridger is constantly exposed to new and unfamiliar things that forces him to think about the world in a new way. This excitement, along with the emotional chaos of his fight with Astrid, his mother, and the occasional near-death exploit brings forth all the repressed pain and fear and he unloads on Pavel during their yeti hunt.
Pavel doesn’t patronize Bridger, or try to smooth things over. He’s there to listen, to be supportive and, more importantly, to be an adult when Bridger really needs one. He’s a source of stability in a time when Bridger feels the ground under his feet crumbling away from him, someone who has the answers, even if they’re simply the answers to mythical and magical questions and someone who accepts Bridger without judgement. Pavel isn’t a father figure, and yet he is. It’s a touching and charming relationship.
Without giving away the story, which is cute and well worth the reading, there’s one scene in particular I wanted to comment on. This is a young adult book and it’s obvious early on in the book that Bridger will have to tell his mother the truth about his feelings for Leo. The scene is an emotionally charged one, taking place in the middle of a fight. Bridger’s mom doesn’t immediately turn her back and shun him, or even immediately open her arms to accept him. Like many people she has mixed emotions over her child’s sexuality, and it takes her time to come to grips with her own reaction to Bridger’s revelation.
All the relationships in this book feel very real, which is difficult to do considering Bridger’s one-sided and very skewed perspective on things. But even through his eyes the respect for their characters Luken has shows through. This is a charming, fun little book filled with whimsy and good writing. I highly recommend it.