This book had been on my radar for quite some time but it took a friend lending me his copy to inspire me to finally read it. Told using text and vintage photographs, it's the story of Jacob, who has grown up disbelieving the creepy stories his grandfather has told him about monsters and children with special gifts. But when Jacob witnesses something scary himself and voyages to the children's home in Wales his grandfather stayed in, he soon learns that perhaps the stories weren't so far-fetched after all...
This novel was hit and miss for me. I'll start with the 'hits' - I liked the concept of the home for children with special abilities and as a fan of epistolary novels, I loved the idea of including more than just text. And for the most part, the photos worked well and did add a creepy element to the story. I thought the inclusion of the handwritten letters was a nice touch too.
Unfortunately, there were more 'misses' than 'hits'. The core problem I had was that I didn't buy the fantasy elements, especially concerning the bad guys. Whilst I appreciated the idea of the children's home being a refuge, I didn't find what they had to hide from all that creepy or well thought-out; the fantasy behind it seemed a bit shallow. I also don't see the need for this book to be part one of a series, when there was such a good opportunity for the story to be wrapped up in one novel. Why are so many YA books part of a series now? It's one of my pet peeves and also one of the key reasons I don't read much YA.
I also had a problem with some of the vintage photos. In some parts of the novel they added to the story well (when Riggs introduces the children, for example), but in others it felt as though Riggs really had to stretch the story in one direction or another to fit with the photos. It reminded me of a game we play in my class, where I give the children a series of words or images and they have to come up with a story using the prompts. It was like Riggs had done that; changed his story for the images rather than let the story tell itself.
Verdict: A mixed reading experience. I won't be hunting down the sequel.
Source: Borrowed from a friend.
First Published: 2011
Score: 2.5 out of 5