Jasper Dash and the Flame-Pits of Delaware: A Pals in Peril Tale

jasperdash By M. T. Anderson [LibraryThing]

When Jasper Dash, Boy Technonaut, receives a telepathic cry for help from a dear friend at the secret monastery of Vbngoom, he and his best friends Katie and Lily journey to the mountains of Delaware to offer their assistance. But Delaware is a strange and dangerous place, and they must make their way past dinosaurs, tourists, spies, mountain squid, riddles, and a creepy staring-contest team to reach Vbngoom – and there’s something even worse waiting for them at their destination.

A few years ago I read the first (and apparently only) two books in the M. T. Anderson’s Thrilling Tales series: Whales on Stilts and The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen. The first was just kind of a brisk, silly story; the second one, while equally silly, broke my heart in all the right places. The protagonist of both books is Lily Gefelty, a smart and somewhat shy but basically average tween. However, her two best friends are each the stars of their own (fictional) book series. Katie Mulligan is the lead in the Horrow Hollow series, a sort of combination of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Goosebumps and is constantly fighting werewolves and witches and demonic mold and such. Jasper Dash is the star of Jasper Dash, Boy Technonaut, a pulp science fiction series from the 1930s and 40s, and is constantly inventing (often unhelpful) gadgets and saying things like “Dash it all, chums.” Lily longs to be adventurous and exciting like her friends, but the Thrilling Tales series showcases her own heroic traits while brilliantly exploring what it means to be a beloved fictional character.

While I loved Jasper in the Thrilling Tales books, I was worried that Anderson was moving away from spotlighting Lily, but I needn’t have worried – the book is split fairly evenly between Lily’s worries about being inferior to her friends, Katie’s full throttle sass, and Jasper’s struggles to live in a modern world while upholding justice and fair play. It’s hilarious and exciting and, yes, I got a bit misty at the end. Curse you, Anderson!

Now, these books aren’t for everyone. I can tell you right off the bat that my co-blogger Becky probably wouldn’t enjoy the aggressively whimsical tone of the prose; my roommate read the first two and didn’t enjoy the silliness (although she loved Anderson’s completely different Feed and Octavian Nothing); my friend Mackenzie probably wouldn’t like all the metatextual navel-gazing. But I love silliness and meta, and I’m a big fan of the whimsical tone when it’s done well. If you enjoy the flippancy of A Series of Unfortunate Events, you’ll probably enjoy Jasper Dash.

There’s honestly not much to say about this book beyond praise. Lily and Katie are both wonderfully strong in their own ways, and Katie’s romantic tribulations were handled very touchingly and age-appropriately. Jasper is hilarious and endearing, and the friendship between the main three is rock-solid, moving, and blessedly free of any whiff of romance. The plot, despite the silliness, was engaging, and the excitement exciting, and the subtle digs at racist tourists were well done.

Obviously, Jasper Dash and the Flame-Pits of Delaware gets five cupcakes. More, please, Mr. Anderson?

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    4 Responses to “Jasper Dash and the Flame-Pits of Delaware: A Pals in Peril Tale”

    1. Margot says:

      Meanwhile, I love them a lot, and I am waiting impatiently for the library to get me my copy.

    2. Ingrid says:

      I’ve been burnt in the past by letting myself be drawn to books based solely on their /totally awesome/ titles, but this sounds absolutely charming. I think I’ve seen some of Anderson’s other books popping up here and there – I should make a note to look into him sometime.

    3. richard says:

      The Delaware Governor had a funny response to Anderson’s misreprentations here:
      http://library.blogs.delaware.gov/2009/09/15/a-big-thank-you-from-governor-jack-markell/

    4. Sadako says:

      Same here, Ingrid, but this one does look relaly neat!

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