What I Read This Week: 5/24 – 5/30/12

30 May

Some books try really hard to creep you out in any way they can. Others sit back and let you infect yourself with terrifying thoughts. I read one of each of those this week.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children tries to be creepy and weird. Oh, how it tries. Look at the cover! The little girl is all old-timey and weird…and she’s floating! This has to be good! Well. It’s not.

After his grandfather is mysteriously killed, teenager Jacob sets off to an isolated island in Wales to investigate his family history. What he discovers is an old, crumbly, creepy building full of odd children. The YA novel plays with time travel, super powers, and monsters, but unfortunately, it doesn’t do any of it well. I have lots of unresolved questions about the logic of how everything works, even though the characters almost overexplain everything. This is the classic example of a book trying way too hard. And it’s the start of a series?! No thanks.

The one thing I did really like about the book was the collection of unsettling black and white photos sprinkled throughout as illustrations. Many of the photos were found items and creepy enough already to not need to be doctored by the author.  It’s the first time since I was probably about 8 that I was reading a book for the pictures.

We Need to Talk About Kevin starts off slow and plodding. Told through letters from the mother of a school shooter to her estranged husband, the reader is spoon fed the story of a woman who has a baby, even though she continually has misgivings. Her child, Kevin, is strange. He never stops screaming. He misbehaves more than the average child, and only seems to do it when his mother is around. Her husband never sees it, and slowly takes sides against her. As Kevin grows up, the plot speeds up, culminating with a horrifying outburst of violence.

This book seemed to keep me at arm’s length at first. The narrator is cold and pretentious. The language is formal and almost stilted.  Nothing much actually happens. It’s just…creepy. As it sped up though, I was captivated. The novel captured all my misgivings about having children, and blew them up to be full blown phobias. How much is a child yours, and how much is he his own? Is there such a thing as intrinsic evil? If so, can even the best mother do anything to stop it? And what makes a good mother good?

Oh. This book. Thank you for working your way into my brain, even if it means I may view children as a bit more terrifying than I would’ve before.

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