By Cynthia Ayala
A tragedy sends young sixteen-year-old Jacob to a remote island off the coast of Wales to connect with his grandfathers’ past in ways he never thought possible.
One of the remarkable things about the novel are the characters and how unique their abilities because in a world where science fiction and books for young readers come in, and in a world where strange abilities have become a sort of staple in fiction, Riggs created uniqueness with the characters and how they function within the realm of the story.
The story moves at a slow pace and builds momentum closer to the end of the story. Admittedly, it is a tough read to begin with as it is very slow, but it does offer a lot of back story about the character and the imagery, the photos and the illustrations and the dynamic between Jacob and his parents. There is also the illusion of time as it functions within the story. It’s amazing how this child of the present interacts with kids who are stuck in the past of WWII. There are multiple worlds here that are trying to get to know one another and that are intermingling as best they can, but it will never be perfect. And it is that sort of tension that adds some depth to the story. One thing that could have been better were the characters. The reader only gets to know one or two of the characters while the others just become background noise. They are important to the story because their lives are at stake, but the reader doesn’t get a chance to get to know them, they’re just there taking up space.
As for the characters that the reader does get to see, they develop quite well and their dynamics with one other intensify. There is the father who is overprotective yet blind to what his son needs, the heartbroken girl stuck in the past, the overprotective guardian, and Jacob who is a bit of wanderlust just trying to find his way. They are all very interesting characters because of how their relationships play off one another, allowing them to grow throughout the text. So they are very rich characters to read about even if there is some lingering desire to know more about the other characters around them.
As for the style of the book, it works in a unique way as it incorporates semi-authentic photographs that work with the text to build the world of the story and the imagination of the reader. There’s a nice balance of imagery alongside the text and they play off each other in wonderful ways. So overall it’s an enjoyable read there’s just a sense that Riggs didn’t know how to give all these other characters’ life leaving them lost in the story. (★★★☆☆ | B)