By Ransom Riggs
Jacob grew up hearing his granddad, Abraham, tell stories about his narrow escape from the “monsters” that lived in Poland during WWII, and his flight as an orphan to a children’s home in Wales. Granddad’s escape isn’t just from the Nazis, but monsters of the mythical type with bloodthirsty cravings for human flesh. When Jacob grows older he dismisses the stories about monsters as ravings from Granddad’s senile mind—that is until he witnesses a murder— and in his search for the killer, is forced to reconsider whether or not Abraham’s stories are actually true.
There are three things that I find quite misleading about this book. The first perplexing point is most certainly the cover. Perhaps it is the intent of the artist to make the cover appear eerie and menacing, with the floating girl in vintage clothing, but what it actually does (in tandem with the long and lame title) is promote the book to primarily young female readers, even though the protagonist is a male, definitely not a good move on the part of the publisher. The third confounding element is the age of Jacob, the protagonist. At the start of the novel Jacob is an older teen using older-teen vocabulary and with an older-teen attitude. Imagine my disappointment when Jacob seems to regress as the story moves on, acting more like a younger teen. Those errors aside, the action and the characters (including the monsters) in the story are both excellent, feeling like a cross between the writing of Daren Shan in his Cirque du Freak series and Rick Riordan’s Heroes of Olympus. However, I would argue that there is nothing spooky at all about the story. The concept of possible time travel, while not unique per se, is made more interesting when described as time loops that eventually close. And while the ending leaves a few questions unanswered (also leaving an opening for a second book in a series) this book has won several awards, and there is movie buzz surrounding it, so my average rating may fall well below the accepted mark.