I swore that I would read this book well in advance of the film release this fall, and then I did not do it in time, and still have not yet seen the film, despite it being way up my alley. But I have finally read the book series, and so I have fulfilled half of this pop culture obligation, and I’m now… conflicted.
I was prepared to adore the series. And, if I’m being honest, I couldn’t stop reading it. It had a lot of lean in and gasp moments. It almost gave me nightmares, and definitely contributed to my general uneasiness (not a difficult task, though, because I am riddled with anxiety as it is).
But this first book was also fairly predictable and a little bit redundant within its genre.
This is the story of a young man whose very eccentric grandfather, who has always told stories about his “peculiar” childhood friends, dies in the boy’s arms under very violent circumstances, as the young man sees a monster running from the scene of the crime. The young man, of course, answers the call and falls down the rabbit hole (almost literally) into a world of “peculiardom” where he discovers all of his grandfather’s childhood friends still living with their variety of gifts, still in their childhood bodies and some level of arrested development, though they are as old as they would be if they had aged naturally outside of their time bubble (or, “loop,” as it’s called in this narrative).
The story lacks the whimsy and thrill that I had been anticipating. This may be the fault of the film trailer, or there may be something else to blame for my false expectations. I will give Riggs credit for the style being fairly whimsical. For example:
And that is how someone who is unusually susceptible to nightmares, night terrors, the Creeps, the Willies, and Seeing Things That Aren’t Really There talks himself into making one last trip to the abandoned, almost-certainly-haunted house where a dozen or more children met their untimely end.
But there is very little delight overall. Instead, there is mostly darkness, fear, and survival. I think I had been looking for discovery-of-special-abilities-as-metaphor-for-adolescence (Buffy-style, if you will), but instead I found Nazis-as-physical-manifestation-of-totalitarianism.
Too soon, you guys. It’s always too soon for Nazis.