I've said it before and I'll say it again, kids are creepy. What can take a horror movie to the next level? A creepy kid. Remember the kids in The Shining? That boy who would make his finger talk and say "redrum" over and over? Or those twin girls? What about The Others? Or The Sixth Sense? Or all those other movies I haven't seen because they have creepy kids in them and I'm too scared to watch them? Who doesn't agree that dolls are creepy? And why were garbage pail kids so popular back in the day? Creepy kids. Has anyone seen the teletubbies? Weirdest shit I'd ever seen.
Having said all that, what drew me to this book was the eerie picture of a girl floating on the cover. The picture looks real, and it looks old. Which brings me to another creepy device...old stuff. And this is a black and white photo, so it's old. At least, it looks old. After I did some asking around, I realized the book's premise is based on several photos that the author obtained. They are an eclectic bunch of pictures, many of which involve amateur photo tricks like the picture of the girl floating on the cover. Some of the photos don't involve any kind of trick, per se, but they're just strange, out of context images. And a lot of them involve kids. Creepy kids. Riggs uses these photos as inspiration for his story, and every now and then, he'll describe a character or a scene, and voila! On the next page is a picture of just what he is describing.
So what's the deal? The story is about Jacob, a teenager who has grown up hearing strange stories from his grandfather, who fled to Wales during WWII. His grandfather grows up in a home with other children, who are all special in some way. Set in modern times, Jacob finds himself delving into his grandfather's past and visiting the orphanage to better understand the strange tales he heard growing up. Although the orphanage and its inhabitants are from the 1940's, Jacob finds a way to connect with his grandfather's past.
It's difficult to get more detailed without giving anything away. But the book is basically a mix of X-Men/sci-fi/fantasy all in one. My reaction to the book was a little mixed...as it is with creepy kids in general. I'm a bit put off, but intrigued at the same time. Although I was more intrigued than put off in this case. I felt the incorporation of the photos was creative, but contrived at times. I could see the author thinking, "How do I get this photo into my narrative?" and then making up a random scene just to make it work. That took me out of the story a couple of times, but I was still excited to see what photo would be next and it definitely made the tale more visual for me. The story definitely fits a young adult genre though, which I find (except in a few cases) can dilute the potential of a story (if that makes any sense to anyone other than myself).
I agree with many others who have reviewed this book - the pictures are creepier than the story itself; and the tale is somewhat immature and underdeveloped. But despite the mixed feelings, if you like fantasy stories or are a YA fan, you may get a kick out of this one.