milrose munce and the den of professional help.

July 11, 2011

So, Where Pleasant Fountains Lie (this wordpress site, silly) was recently stumbled upon by Douglas Anthony Cooper, an author of the cute and macabre. He felt that his book might be a match for my dark and creepy eccentricities. It’ll probably be a match for yours, too. What was the book, you ask?

Milrose Munce and the Den of Professional Help

Milrose Munce is an awfully awful name for a young boy, and he cannot help but to meet the expectations that such a peculiar and flippant name promises. He really just wants to be a regular kid who goes to school, gets detentions, daydreams about birthmarks and chit chats with ghosts. Uh, what? I told you Milrose was as odd as his name. Despite being impudent and cheeky with his professors (he honestly just can’t help it) and always being picked last in gym class (well, actually, on good days he gets picked second to last), he is quite a popular student and has plenty of friends – even if they are all deceased. It seems the dead aren’t as quiet and content to push up daisies as one might think.

Milrose’s school is brimming with the lively non-living whom are nicknamed for the event which caused their demise, who adapt to different floors of the building, and also enjoy chemistry, poetry, and long walks on the beach. Well, maybe not the latter since they’re haunting a school and not all of them still have legs, but you get the idea. Even though he thinks he’s the only one who can see them, Milrose just doesn’t see it as a big deal. Even when he finds out the mysterious and restrained girl he fancies can also see the dead, he’s more fascinated to have learned her name is Arabella, a name as eccentric as his, than by the fact they share this strange talent.

Until one day Milrose gets sentenced to receive Professional Help under the guise of being thought troublesome, if not crazy. Now he and Arabella are forced to undergo a series of mind-numbing exercises and terrifying treatments lead by Massimo Natica, the professional of all professionals. As days in the Den (a room that one must turn left to enter in a hall where no one could have ever turned left before) stretch on and on, Milrose and Arabella just don’t seem to be improving and Massimo Natica’s tactics become more and more alarming. For fear that they will be “cured”, Milrose and Arabella align an eerie army of ghosts to rescue themselves, and in the process, reveal their school’s secret past which makes their own secrets seem more normal than they had ever dreamed.

Milrose Munce and the Den of Professional Help is a pretentiously mocking narrative, and I mean that most pleasurably and playfully. Cooper uses a thesaurus’s worth of pompous, unusual words but it’s only to add to the book’s outlandish perspective. In a world with Harry Potter, Lemony Snicket, and Edward Gorey along with a plethora of clever and deviant characters, Milrose and Arabella are still fresh and not just the cookie-cutter anti-hero misfit image that has become popular in today’s entertainment. As characters, they are written intelligently but still innocently and retain their personalities and identities through to the last page. I always find it frustrating as I read a book and think something like “Peter Protagonist sooo would not have said/done that at the beginning of the book.” Sometimes, yes, it can be important that a character is dynamic and does not remain static throughout the length of the story – but I don’t like when the roots of a character have morphed from what you grew fond of originally. The ghosts are also gruesome and properly detailed with each one more bizarre than the next.

Cooper is a master of dialogue. Conversations and descriptions in Milrose Munce are witty, amusing and most often, pretty irrelevant. This book doesn’t take itself so seriously, and that’s what makes it fun. Just as dialogue is Cooper’s strong suit, plot development and consistency might be his weakest. The story scheme and development in Milrose Munce and the Den of Professional Help seems to have too much bendability. Sometimes a resource is brought about in a last minute fashion or presented in a “why didn’t we think of this sooner?” way. Cooper doesn’t ignore these unprepared plot turns, though, but often makes light of the overlooked conflicts, simple solutions and improbable incidents. Well, I mean, it’s not like a school full of dead students is a probable thing (It could be – you just don’t know) but I am suggesting more along the lines of certain aha! moments that read much like: this big problem we’ve been dealing with for quite a while, here’s suddenly the perfect resolution with an explanation. It’s almost as if Cooper had a concept and let the story enfold as he sat down to write it without having an outline of the story plot first.

Even if this was the case, the book’s essence of unpreparedness does not detract from its enjoyability (Is that even a real word? There’s one for you, Milrose). The macabre quirkiness that is Milrose Munce and the Den of Professional Help has the potential to be a classic with a reassuring message, which is that it’s fine to be different and to be yourself. Cooper had the right idea with Milrose and presented it in a charmingly morbid and tongue-in-cheek way – let’s just be glad he didn’t ask for any “help”.

If you’re interested in the book!

All old-fashioned, classic, paper and ink persons can find it here: http://www.amazon.com/MILROSE-MUNCE-DEN-PROFESSIONAL-HELP/dp/1847244289/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1310435675&sr=8-1

All electronic, instant gratification-ing, new-aged persons can find it here: http://www.amazon.com/Milrose-Munce-Professional-Extended-ebook/dp/B003TFEVGC/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1310435675&sr=8-3

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