When I heard about this book, I wanted to read it immediately. Which meant getting to the library as soon as possible, of course (any excuse, right?).
This novel, which bridges something between fantasy and sci-fi, is about a teenager named Jacob who, as he grew up, was always being told these magnificent stories by his grandfather, about his life in a children’s home in Wales during World War II. The way Abe tells it, however, this wasn’t a home for any ordinary children- all of the kids who lived here were peculiar. They had eerie gifts and fascinating powers- one girl would float away if nothing anchored her to the ground; a boy had bees living inside of him, and when he opened his mouth a few would fly out; there was an invisible boy; a girl who could make things grow, like wild, and one with a mouth on the back of her head; and even more. To back up his exotic claims, Abe had a handful of creepy vintage photos of the children.
As Jacob grew up, he began to doubt his grandfather’s stories. But by the time he was sixteen, Abe was very nearly senile, and his stories were horrifyingly real to him. Particularly the part about the monsters who were after the kids, from whom he had been fleeing his entire life. Suddenly, Abe is killed under very mysterious, traumatizing circumstances, and Jacob is the one to find him. As he breathes his last breaths, he urges his grandson to visit the home where he grew up, and there he would find answers. Before Jacob leaves the scene, though, he sees something in the trees he can’t believe- the very monster his crazy grandpa has been describing since he was a boy.
People may think he’s crazy- he may think he’s a little crazy himself- but Jacob does as his grandfather asks. Accompanied by his father, he travels to Cairnholm, Wales, a tiny little nothing village. On the far side of the island, where the residents never venture, are the overgrown ruins of the children’s home. The house is nightmarish, but Jacob is determined.
Accompanying the story are a collection of photographs- every time a photograph was described in the book, it would be presented so that you could see exactly what they were talking about. That’s one of the details that really drew me to the book. The faces in the photos are unsmiling, absurd, and they will swim before your eyes as you try to fall asleep. Roughly the first third of this book left me feeling more uneasy than any Stephen King novel ever has.
Once the really creepy beginning is resolved, the book becomes an adventure fantasy tale. These aren’t usually my cup of tea, but I’ve found that when they’re executed well (The Hunger Games, Brighid’s Quest, etc.) they can be some of the most enjoyable books to read. This is, at least a bit, why I was able to finish it in a day. I’m not one who can sit down with a book and finish it in one sitting, but this one had me latched on well into the night.
A few days ago, my sisters and I went to Barnes & Noble, and my twin was after a book that would hook her, that she would be able to finish. She’s been in a rut for about a month now and hasn’t been able to finish a single book, so I suggested this one. She was hooked and she bought it, and when I spoke to her yesterday she said that yes, she had already finished it, had stayed up until the wee hours of the morning reading it, and had begun and completed Stephen King’s Carrie in the meantime. She’s probably a faster reader than I am, but I think it’s safe to say that she’s out of her rut.
(This next paragraph could possibly be considered a spoiler, maybe.)
Now, I have to say that the inside-cover summary of this book is misleading. This is likely why the story wasn’t exactly what I had expected it to be. The dustjacket makes it sound like there’s something sinister about the children themselves. The truth is that the children are just children- albeit peculiar children with very strange abilities, just children. Good children. Children who are on Jacob’s side (except, possibly, for Enoch, but for now he’s good). There are dark creatures lurking in the shadows, going after the children. Once the children become characters, rather than these creepy, powerful, eerie faces from the photographs, the book becomes a lot less creepy.
(No more spoilers, yay!)
So it wasn’t quite as thrilling as I had hoped. Nevertheless, it was a good read and intensely interesting, and I would recommend it to anyone who can handle a little spook.
As I was searching on the internet a moment ago, I happened upon this magnificent thing. It’s a trailer for the book; did you know books had trailers? I didn’t, but this one is fantastic. I think this would make a wonderful movie, in the future. In fact, the book was only released earlier this month, so a movie is rather distant. But just think of the possibilities.