Strange Crea­tures

Phoebe North

  • Review
By – July 8, 2022

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.

Discussion Questions