Finished: Jul. 17, 2011
First Published: Jul. 7, 2011
Publisher: Quirk Books
Genre: YA, magical realism, Gothic
I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen.
Acquired: Received a Review Copy from Random House Canada.
Reason for Reading: I couldn't resist! This book has everything I love in one book: orphans, mysterious island, vintage photographs, creepy atmosphere and an old house. How could I not want to read it.
Here is a book that once again uses photographs and text together in a unique way. The obscure, peculiar vintage photographs are simply illustrative, but the author has had to write his story around already existing photos which enhance the story to such a degree that the book would not be what it is without them. The notes do say that "with the exception of a few that have undergone minimal postprocessing, they are unaltered." Really only one word sums up this book and that is the eponymous "peculiar" for peculiar it certainly is. This is not a fast paced book, not one that will have you racing to the end for the grand finale which may put some of the intended audience off. However, it is more meandering, taking its time, showing us all the "peculiar" characters, who and what they are, as the story unfolds.
Jacob comes to the island to get over the death of his grandfather who had told him fantastical tales of this place his whole life to prove that it is just an island after all, but he quickly learns his grandfather's tales were true. The story settles in and slowly reveals the secret of the island, the house, the children, Jacob's grandfather, and eventually Jacob's part in it all. A very moody atmospheric story that I quite enjoyed. I loved the characters and as a lover of vintage photos was totally fascinated with the photographs.
My only concern with the book is a certain tone of vulgar language coming mostly from Jacob, the narrator. There is some swearing but it is the vulgar images that certain language convey which is of more concern. The only reason I can think of this use is to show that Jacob is from the here and now, as opposed to the 1940's of the other children, though some of those boys have vulgar turns of phrase as well. I wouldn't recommend the book for younger children. Also, the book ends with the characters all set to take on a new adventure which is obviously a set-up for a second book, which is rather disappointing as I am getting tired of sequels and series these days. Whatever happened to the good ole standalone? However, teens and adults should find a rather spooky read that will keep them entertained.