The premise: The author took photos that were collected from flea markets, garage sales, etc. and made a story out of them, which creates a very gripping and cinematic tale, because the photos are including in the text of the book. It is your typical story of your weird, gauche, outcast teenager going on a journey to find himself. Throughout his life, the main character (Jacob)’s grandfather has shown his these strange pictures of ‘peculiar’ children he grew up with in the orphanage. After his grandfather is viciously killed by a ‘wild animal’, Jacob is crushed, goes to a shrink, and decides to find his grandfather’s orphanage to uncover the locked secrets of his past, all the while he is unlocking the secrets of himself.
My review: I should say that the first two hundred pages of this book were gripping. I started reading it the night before I had parent-teacher conferences and all I could think about was how I wanted to get home so I could keep reading. The beginning of the book alludes a certain sense of mystery and eeriness. It reminded me of a Big Fish or Benjamin Button type story–the creation of a strange, peculiar, altered sense of reality. I wanted to keep reading to unlock the secrets of Jacob’s family. One thing I also appreciated was the elevated vocabulary–mostly just because I saw many of the words that I study with my students.
I would say the last two hundred pages of this book were kind of disappointing to me. It turned into your typical fantasy young adult novel, with demons and angels and creepy things lurking in the corner (however, I would not put it in the same realm as Twilight or Hunger Games, because the writing itself is a little more sophisticated…) I also felt like the main character read like a female, although it was clearly a male. “Surprisingly”, there is also a little love story entwined with the story about the weird teenager who has never had a girlfriend.
At the end of the book, Jacob reflects and realizes that he is a different person than he was at the beginning of the journey but that he will forever carry the baggage of his past with him. I think this is the ‘overall life lesson’ that this book teaches–that we all come from backgrounds and, although we move forward in our lives, those backgrounds will linger with us, whether that be through our memories, photographs, or other scars.
Would I recommend this book? Yes. Would I read it again? No. I just heard that Tim Burton has agreed to direct this movie so it should be an interesting rendition of the book.