The Unusual Mind of Vincent Shadow

vincentshadow By Tim Kehoe [LibraryThing]

All Vincent wants to do is invent toys, but it’s hard to do that with his family moving, his stepmother and stepsisters picking on him, and his inventions falling flat. When the chance to enter a toy inventing contest arises, though, Vincent knows that this may be just what he needs to make his dreams come true.


I’m sorry, did you think I was leaving something out of that plot summary up there? Nope. I sat down to write this review, drew a complete blank on what to put as the summary, and resorted to checking the back cover blurb, which is just as vague and useless. I can’t really blame the blurb writer, though – the fault is with the book, which goes nowhere, ends nowhere, and accomplishes nothing along the way.

Basically we’ve got this Vincent kid, who lives in New York and wants to be a toy inventor. Then his mean old stepmother moves them to Minnesota. Then he hears about a world famous toy contest (What do you mean, a kid who cares about nothing but toy inventing should already know about a contest like this? Pshaw.) in New York. So he goes back to New York and enters the toy contest. That’s…pretty much it. There’s a subplot about a bunch of Nicola Tesla inventions that have just been found in a hotel, and how no one can figure out what one of them is, but a) the mystery was so poorly written that it took me hours after finishing the book to figure out why I had a vague sense of something being unfinished in the book, and b) it’s resolved so anticlimactically and off-the-cuff-ly that I, you know, had a vague sense of something being unfinished in the book. Also the villains aren’t introduced until halfway through the book, and don’t really do anything. Well plotted, sir.

Then there’s Vincent himself, who is incredibly unlikable. Aside from the fact that he’s thunderously boring, he clearly believes that the entire world should revolve around himself and his inventions. At one point he steals his six-year-old stepsister’s stuffed animals, cuts them up, and rearranges them into “Mixablez,” stuffed animals made up of two different kinds of animals. First off, it’s been done. Many times. (Don’t worry, I’ll get to the idiocy of the inventions in a minute.) Second, stealing your little sister’s toys and mutilating them? Kid, you aren’t an inventor. You’re Sid from Toy Story. You’re a monster. He also takes a fan from the hairdryer for an invention, causing it to almost electrocute his teenage stepsister the next morning. Not only does he not confess to or apologize for almost killing his sister, he feels absolutely no guilt about it. This turns into a “wacky” running gag where he takes parts from all of the household appliances and doesn’t tell anyone about it, thus inconveniencing his entire family, because, you know, he’s a genius.

And then we have the inventions. For starters, they all end with a Z: Mixablez, Windless Kitez, Pop Tunz. There is no explanation for this. Look, kids know that’s not cool. It’s what uncool grownups do to look cool. More importantly, though, there is nothing whimsical or fun about the toys. There’s one featured invention from Howard G. Whiz, the eccentric toymaker hosting the contest, who Kehoe clearly thinks is a new Willy Wonka (he’s not). It’s…a skateboard. WOO TASTE THE EXCITEMENT.

Vincent’s toys, meanwhile, are not only dull, they miss the entire point. He’s got a basketball that you can aim with a targeting system so you never miss, and a baseball bat that expands when you swing so that, again, you never miss. Way to completely ruin the game, dude. Then there’s his Windless Kitez (arrrrrgh), which are made of metal and work by running high voltage up them, so they don’t need wind and you can fly them inside. Not only are they, you know, lethal, but people don’t not fly kites inside because there’s no wind. They don’t fly kites inside because there’s no room. The point of a kite is to run outside, into the wind, to let it unspool from your hand and watch it dance on the breeze, a tiny point of color in a field of blue. It’s not to stand alone in your bedroom staring at something that doesn’t move. All of the inventions are like this. It’s like Vincent’s childhood is so depressing he wants to force the children of the world to buy his toys and be equally depressed.

I wracked my brain, but I couldn’t think of one positive thing about this book except that it’s kind of short. So The Unusual Mind of Vincent Shadow gets zero cupcakes, and is getting kicked out of book collection posthaste.


    One Response to “The Unusual Mind of Vincent Shadow”

    1. Gillian says:

      Once again, thank you for reading and reviewing this so we don’t have to. What a little brat.

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