Told from the alternating points of view of three protagonists, Strange Creatures is a coming-of-age story containing elements of fantasy, mystery, sexual awakening, and crime, but it is primarily a story about learning to distinguish the real from the fantastic, the world as it is from the world that we would like it to be.
Annie is deeply entrenched in a fantasy world populated by herself, her brother, Jamie, and a host of imaginary creatures based on mythology and lore. Annie and Jamie have constructed their kingdom with care and their rich imaginations have made it an exciting magical habitat for the two of them to share. Living in this imaginary, sometimes-frightening, magnetic world fulfills many of Annie’s emotional needs and she is not prepared to give it up when Jamie outgrows it.
In addition to Annie and Jamie, the third perspective is that of Jamie’s former girlfriend, who is now dating Annie.
When Jamie disappears for two years, everyone is convinced he has run away and, ultimately, that he has died. Annie does not agree. She is sure that Jamie has entered their imaginary world and cannot find his way back, and that if she can somehow discover a way in on her own, that she can rescue him. Annie’s feelings of responsibility begin to affect her daily life along with a sense of guilt for falling in love with Jamie’s former girlfriend. Religion is an important theme running through the story, especially Judaism, which plays a significant role in the family’s dynamics.
This dark yet appealing and redemptive tale is a page-turner which presents a world of its own thatreaders enter and are reluctant to leave.
Michal Hoschander Malen is the editor of Jewish Book Council’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A former librarian, she has lectured on topics relating to literacy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.