Strange Creatures – Phoebe North

I really hate not being able to write a positive review for books. But sometimes, a book just doesn’t work for you. I think Strange Creatures is one of those for me. Based on its components, I should have really liked it, but I ended up feeling very meh about it as a whole.

Massive thanks to Harper360YA for sending me an ARC of Strange Creatures. All opinions are my own.

RELEASE DATE: 01/06/2021

STAR RATING: 3/5 ✶

SUMMARY: From the moment that Annie was born, she and her older brother, Jamie, were inseparable. Alike in almost every way, they promised to always take care of each other while facing the challenges of growing up different in suburban America. And when life became too much for them, they created their own space in the woods behind their house: a fantasy world, called Gumlea, where no one else could find them.

And it was enough, for a while. But then came middle school, when Jamie grew dark and distant. He found new friends, a girlfriend, and a life away from Annie and Gumlea. Soon it was as if she hardly knew the brother who was her other half.

And then, one day, he disappears.

Annie, her family, and the entire community are devastated. And as the days turn into months turn into years, everyone begins to accept that Jamie is gone for good. Everyone, that is, except Annie, who believes that Jamie, somehow, has entered Gumlea, and who believes that she’s the only one who can bring him back.

But as Annie searches for answers and finds a new relationship with a girl she did not expect, she makes startling discoveries about her brother’s disappearance—and has to decide how much of herself she’s willing to give up in order to keep hope alive. (from Harper Teen)

OPINIONS: So, this has elements of story within a story, dealing with mental health issues and queer discovery. Which means that in its parts, I should have really liked it – but as the whole is greater than its parts, it ended up not working for me. I think the main issue I had with it is that it felt really meandering, with no clear direction for the plot to be propelled forward. Added to that was that I found almost all of the characters really unlikeable – not in a villain/anti-hero sort of way, but more in a ‘I couldn’t care less about you’ way.

But! this does feature a wonderful book-girlfriend in its later parts. I loved Court’s character and found her parts a wonderful antidote to the rest of the book. I just wish she ended up playing a more important role in the grand scale of the story. Sadly, one great character does not make up for the rest of the book. Another thing that might have helped cause my disconnect with the story is that it follows Annie from childhood almost through her college degree. For that amount of time spent in a characters head and throughout the course of their life, Annie stays a bland character without much development.

It is also most certainly not the almost whimsical portal-fantasy adventure I expected this to be when I picked it up. It is closer to a contemporary drama – which is less my thing to start with. It touches on a lot of interesting topics, but I feel like it doesn’t actually carry them through to their conclusion, which means that it is much harder for the reader to connect to the story.

If you’re intrigued, add Strange Creatures to your Goodreads here, or order a copy from Bookshop here (affiliate link).

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