I was drawn to this book because I had read an article about how the author had constructed the story around a set of vintage photographs he had amassed. It was described as a strange and sometimes creepy story. All of this, combined with the interesting title and cover, propelled me to buy the book right off Amazon.com, and I can’t say I was disappointed with my decision.
The book centers around 16-year-old Jacob Portman, who now defines his life in two eras: Before and After. A tragic incident in the beginning of the book is what causes this split in his life, and also what propels his search for the titular Home for Peculiar Children. As he investigates this home, and the children who populated it years ago, he realizes all the stories his grandfather told him as a child about monsters and gifted children might actually be true.
I don’t want to give away too much of the plot because my absolute favorite part of this book is all the vintage photographs (which, according to the author in the acknowledgments, are almost all in their original condition, with only a few alterations) and how he constructs stories to fit these photos. They really are an odd bunch of snapshots and could be interpreted in so many ways. Riggs uses the photos both to paint a specific picture of an individual or moment and also to make each of the pictures a piece of a bigger, complete story.
This book definitely isn’t perfect; at times you can tell it is aimed at the YA crowd (my opinion is that a good YA book should satisfy teens and adults alike) and it starts off somewhat slowly, aside from the incident I mentioned earlier. I don’t think that these things ultimately detract from the story, though. Jacob’s journey is a very interesting one, and sometimes truly strange, and I enjoyed him, but I especially loved the supporting characters and their…. let’s call them quirks.
The book wraps up its story at the end, but also leaves the possibility of future books. If you’ve read my reviews before, I’m sure you know that I sometimes find trilogies or multi-book series tiresome, because they almost always have an intentionally dramatic cliffhanger to keep you reeled in. This story stands on its own and has a satisfying resolution, and I would gladly pick up another installment purely because I enjoy the characters and their unique existence.