1 star · 2013 · fiction · ya

mini-review: The Man Who Was Poe by Avi

Title: The Man Who Was Poe
Author: Avi (website)
Pub. Date: June 25, 2013 (orig. 1989)
Source: e-ARC via netgalley (Thank you, SCHOLASTIC!!)
Summary: The night Edmund’s twin sister, Sis, goes missing, the streets of nineteenth-century Providence, Rhode Island, are filled with menacing shadows. As Edmund frantically searches the city, he tries to make sense of what happened: He only left Sis alone long enough to buy bread. How did she vanish in the mere minutes he was gone?

Just as Edmund is about to lose hope of finding her, a stranger appears out of the mist and offers to help. But the man is gloomy and full of secrets. He seems to need Edmund to carry out plans of his own. Can Edmund trust him? And if he doesn’t take the chance, how will he ever find his sister?
Genre: YA, Fiction

After being left alone for three days, twins Edmund and Sis have run out of what little food they have. Although they were under strict orders from their aunt to stay indoors, Edmund makes the decision to head out in search of food. Unfortunately, when he returns, he discovers his sister is nowhere to be found. With his mother, aunt, and sister missing, Edmund is on his own with only a strange man to help him. Who is this man, where are his family members, and just what is the man writing?

I went into this thinking I’d have a great time. I know Avi is beloved by school kids the world over, but I honestly can’t recall ever reading any of his works. With the reissue of The Man Who Was Poe, plus the fact that, hello, it’s POE, I figured this would be the perfect place to start.

Boy was I wrong.

I’m all for artistic license and taking liberties when it comes to historical figures, but come on. Avi made Poe seem like a complete lunatic. He was borderline at best, jumping from mood to mood – and even identity! He insisted Edmund address him as Auguste Dupin, one of Poe’s characters. He completely lost it whenever Edmund slipped and called him Poe. He also came across as, well, kind of an ass. One of my most treasured books I own is The Poe Log (a bit hard to find these days & the ones available are a tad bit pricey, sadly). It’s a painstakingly detailed account of every single day of Poe’s life and then some. Letters, articles, conversations are all compiled into one volume and it’s a wealth of information for any fan of Poe’s. On occasion I’ll flip through it (& it was my best resource for some term papers in college!) and any account I’ve read from Poe’s friends and family make mentioned of how soft-spoken and polite he was. He definitely had a drinking problem, but the novel turned him into a Jekyll/Hyde character anytime alcohol was involved.

Initially Poe – or Dupin – is willing to help Edmund find his sister, but the Crazy Train pulled up. I still don’t know what happened with this one. PoeDupin is writing a story about Edmund’s life and insists it can only end in death, so he decides the sister is dead and gives up his search. Naturally Edmund is distraught and bewildered and I was confused right along with him. Throw in some maybe-maybe-not ghosts, a surprise!stepfather, and a couple of bad guys for good measure and you’ll get The Man Who Was Poe.

Although this was such a short book it was NOT the fun, quick read I was hoping for. Perhaps I would have enjoyed it more when I was 8, but to read it as an adult made my head hurt and brought for the rage. The pace was so quick I was overwhelmed and found myself struggling to keep up at times. After a very graphic chapter early on in the book (Edmund has to identify a body found in the river), The Man Who Was Poe shifted gears and was a complete disappointment. I really wanted to enjoy this one.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

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3 thoughts on “mini-review: The Man Who Was Poe by Avi

  1. Oh, bummer! I am slavish Avi fangirl, altho I haven’t read him since I was a teenager, so maybe I’m not. I haven’t read this one so I might give it a try, but as a Poe fan, I suspect I’ll find it wanting as you did! :/

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