#SpooktasticReads They Threw Us Away by Daniel Kraus
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Horror, Middle Grade
Series: Book 1 of The Teddies Saga
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. BYR (September 15, 2020)
Length: 256 pages
Described as equal parts Toy Story and Lord of the Flies, They Threw Us Away is the first book of a middle grade trilogy about a group of teddy bears who wake up lost and confused in a garbage dump, unsure why they’ve been discarded. Now if that isn’t the most heartbreaking thing I’ve ever read, I don’t know what is! Our main teddy Buddy is the first to come to awaken, and finding himself out of his box, his initial thought is that he’d been claimed by a child—a goal that every Furrington brand bear aspires to. But very quickly, he realizes that cannot be the case, or else he would have entered Forever Sleep, the inanimate peaceful state teddies are said to fall eternally into the first time they are hugged by a kid who loves them.
So no, Buddy hasn’t found himself an owner. He’s not even at the toy store anymore. Around him, all he can see is trash, mountains and mountains of it, and among the piles of greasy pizza boxes and old rusted pots are other Furrington teddies, still brand new in their packaging, just waking up now as well. First there’s Sunny, the feisty yellow bear who believes it’s a “Teddy’s Duty” for them to help each other. Next is Horace, the green scaredy-bear. Then there’s Sugar, the pink teddy who was sadly damaged in her box, giving her a childlike demeanor, though she sure doesn’t let it get her down. And finally, there’s Reginald, the grey bear who had been sitting on the store shelves the longest, and those extra years have made him the smartest teddy who knows the most.
That said, even Reginald doesn’t know why the Furringtons have been unceremoniously dumped, but to a one, they agree they must not stop in their search for a child of their own. First though, they’ll need to flee the junkyard filled with horrors like monstrous dozers, or the merciless flocks of trash gulls ready to peck apart anything that moves. Even if they manage to escape, the teddies will need to endure hardships they have never faced before, as together they try to solve the mystery of why they’ve been throw away, all the while chasing the dream of Forever Sleep.
I confess I don’t read much MG, but when They Threw Us Away was pitched to me, I saw Daniel Kraus’ name and immediately accepted. I’ve read and enjoyed a few of his books, though they were either Adult or YA, and I was curious to see how he would handle a children’s novel, especially one with such a, shall we say, ah, grim premise? After all, Kraus made his name with a lot of his horror projects, and some of those talents have definitely spilled over in this one too. Don’t let the cute little teddies on the cover fool you; despite the intended age group, this story packs a pretty intense punch with content that can potentially disturb young readers.
What kind of content am I talking about? Well, take the scenes of the teddies getting their stuffing brutally torn out by vicious birds, for example, or of them falling into a dumpster full of disembodied teddy parts—the heads and limbs of their former comrades, gah! Bear in mind (sorry, I just couldn’t help myself), Kraus spends a considerable amount of time anthropomorphizing the totally adorable Furringtons, establishing them as living, breathing characters with individual personalities, values, and behaviors. Not surprisingly, it’s like a knife in the gut when bad things happen to them, and I can see how some of the stuff here can get a little rough and quease-inducing for more sensitive readers, no matter the age.
Concurrently though, the language in the book makes it clear this can be nothing else but a MG novel. The style is childish, clearly written for kids in the 8-12 range. Adult readers might grow frustrated with the simplistic storytelling or the cutesy-wootsy speak of the teddies. At times, this gave the book an air of confusion, with the sunny saccharine dialogue clashing horribly with some of the story’s darker macabre themes.
Still, in the end I enjoyed the book, even with its loopy ups and dumpy downs. Daniel Kraus has started something very special and interesting here in They Threw Us Away, and with my curiosity piqued over the mystery of why someone would want to destroy the hapless Furringtons, I’m definitely open to reading more!