Cover Me: This cover CREEPS me out. So much so, it kept me from buying the book for quite some time. I know it sounds ridiculous, but the girl on the cover is so peculiar she gives me goose bumps. This definitely sets up the odd feel for the book, but it’s not as spooky as it looks. But the creepy photos keep coming.
Concept: After the death of Jacob’s grandfather, he sets out to visit the small island setting of his grandfather’s mystical stories from his youth. Jacob discovers the stories of the odd children his grandfather lived with were not made up. Instead they are the same kids who live on the island today (though in their reality it’s really 1940.)
The Peeps: The main character Jacob, is written very well in the first person. The author does a great job of writing a believable character who doubts his sanity when faced with unbelievable circumstances. There are several children with many powers that are described, but the main one is Emma. She was the girlfriend of Jacob’s grandfather and is smitten with Jacob as well. Yes, a little creepy, but Jacob gets over it quickly and makes out with her. The other kids are distinctive with their powers and nice filler in the story. Throughout the book, there are black and white photos to support the story line (like the one pictured on the cover.) Their strange settings and depictions make you question if they are real or a twisted portrait to freak you out. Photoshop can do some great things, but these things are genuine, picked up from flea markets, antique stores, and yard sales. They are a character all on their own and give an unsettling feel.
The Ending (spoiler alert!): With most YA books these days, this one is the start of a series. Don’t get me wrong, I love series. Even after ten books and with the last ones not being so great, I’ll by the next Sookie Stackhouse book the minute it’s available. But what differs from the series books I’ve read lately in the YA field is they don’t end on the last page. A small piece of the story resolves, but the real mystery is left hangin’.
The story started to lose me with the introduction of different mystical creatures, such as the wights and the shadow-somethings. I did see it coming that Jacob’s psychiatrist was involved, which I thought was a great twist. But I was not impressed when he lists through all the people he’d been in Jacob’s life because he’s been stalking him for the last decade. It was a bit too much for me and didn’t make much sense. If he knew Jacob was different, why not go after him sooner. Or if he was waiting for Jacob to lead him to the island to the other “peculiars” why pretend to be the gardener or the school bus driver (two identities he took on)? Those relationships aren’t close enough ones to get invited on a trip to a secret island or someone you’d share all your secrets with about how you can see monsters.
Overall, I liked the uniqueness of the book and the photos really added to it. The writing style was good and kept the book moving at a good pace. I will probably pick up the sequel even though I would’ve been happy if it was a stand-alone book.
What I Cooked Up: A central theme in the book and this review is the black and white photos. Who knows if they were the things to inspire the author into writing this story, but they are definitely noteworthy. In celebration, a black and white of my own was created; a dark chocolate brownie with a cheesecake topping made in a peculiar way.