Seeing as the trailer for the movie just came out I felt I should read these books sooner rather than later. I hate seeing the movie before reading the book. But, I’ll get to my thoughts on the trailer later. For now let’s focus on the book.
Ransom Riggs writes as if her were a three-way love child of Tim Burton, Neil Gaiman, and Stan Lee and his stories have a young-adult-appropriate American Horror Story feel to them. He began as a photographer, film maker, screen writer and became really interested in the stories behind old, found photographs. Apparently, since Riggs couldn’t know what really happened in the photos, he made up his own story instead.
The reason I put off reading these for so long is because I worried that including these photographs would be very gimmicky; however, I was wrong. These found photos provide all of the creepiness to this story and also give world-building context.
In this story, 16 year-old Jacob has a fairly average life. The only interesting element is his grandfather Abe’s stories, which are accompanied by some spooky photos. Abe dies suddenly and tragically causing Jacob to go through an emotional breakdown. Jacob’s overly pushy psychiatrist end up supporting him when he wants to investigate Abe’s childhood.
Jacob and his father travel to an isolated island where Jacob discovers that all of grandpa’s stories were true. And there begins a tale of people who are out of place and out of time.
What I appreciated most about this tory is that Jacob is almost painfully average. He is not amazingly brave, or smart, or cunning. He is just a boy with a kooky grandfather. Contrastingly, the side characters of this story are highly complex in subtle ways. Most of the characters are mentally much older than their physical appearance, which creates a long list of complications to their lives and personalities.
Meanwhile, this is all occurring in a mostly non-fantastical universe having nods to urban fantasy, superheroes, horror stories, and historical fiction. I find this novel defies genre, which makes me eve more drawn to it especially since the writing is oh so much better than even “good” young adult fiction.
Despite all of the good things, I didn’t devour this book quite like I usually do and I think that was due primarily to pacing. This story started out somewhat slow and there was significant time between each revel of the next plot wrinkle. In some cases this extra time was needed to build the story, but in others we waste time on unnecessary characters that do nothing to progress the plot or the character development. That being said, it still only took me two days to consume this novel.
Overall, I give this book a 4 on my Young Adult scale.
Main Characters: 4/5
Side characters: 4/5
World Development: 4/5
Writing Quality: 5/5
Now, I can’t write this review without briefly mentioning my thoughts on the trailer. I don’t usually complain about minor story changes. Some things work for a book that would not work for a movie. With that in mind, I still am very unhappy about character changes made for this movie. The main female character has become a weird mishmash and there are changes in age, powers etc. to other characters as well. The characters in this book have peculiarities that Riggs directly and intelligently related to their personalities and roles in his created society. A distortion of those peculiarities is a bastardization of the character in my opinion. Additionally, where the Hell is Abe? He is a key part of the emotional development of this story and yet he is absent from the trailer. there are additional choices that I can see on imdb.com that were not in the trailer that I also question. Otherwise, the casting is fantastic and Tim Burton is the ONLY logical choice for this movie so we will just have to wait and see.
Procrastination and Giggles,
The Red Queen
P.S. I have a feeling you should read the first TWO books before seeing this movie. It’s just a hunch, but I’d trust me if I were you.
P.S.S According to Ransom Rigg’s Twitter he is super chill about the changes they made and since I believe the author’s word is law I guess I’ll just have to be cool with it.