The Peculiars by Maureen Doyle McQuerry

On Lena Mattacascar’s 18th birthday she receives a small inheritance and a note from her father, who left her family when she was a child to live in Scree. All her life she has been told stories of Scree, the wild untamed land in the north, where the Peculiars are. Lena always knew she inherited her unique traits from her father, but now she finally has a chance to find out if its true, if she herself, is Peculiar.

Lena jumps on a train to Knob Knoster, the town on the border of Scree. She plans to pay a guide with her inheritance to take her to find her father. On the train she ends up in a car with a nice young man, Jimson Quiggley, who is traveling to Knob Knoster to work in a library for a man named Mr. Beasely. Then, while Lena is in the dining car, a convict is chased through the train and her purse is stolen, robbing her of the money that would have paid for her guide. She is interviewed by the Marshal Thomas Saltre and he makes her a deal, if she spies on Mr. Beasley for him, then the Marshal will guide her into Scree.

Lena agrees, finds her way to Mr. Beasley’s and begins work for him in his large wondrous library. The library is full of amazing books, odd inventions and Jimson, who becomes her new friend. She reports back to the Marshal regularly but starts to become torn, is Mr. Beasley really up to no good? One day Lena and Jimson witness something unusual and decide to investigate.

The Peculiars is a great YA adventure. Not just the eccentric inventions which give the book a delightful touch of steampunk, or the wonderful library where every young bibliophile will wish they could visit, or the mysterious cat that sounds like it’s talking when its purring (Mrs. Mumbles, I’d love to adopt you even though I’m allergic.) But also, Lena herself is a great character. Shes intelligent, self sufficient and yet also insecure and plagued by doubt due to her Peculiarities. Like any young individual, she wonders if her differences make her a bad person simply because society tells her they do. Lena discovers a lot about the world and her family in her travels. We get to see her mature from a scared young woman into to a confident adult with a purpose. Most of all, we’re with her when she learns to be proud of herself, no matter who, or what, that turns out to be.

(This title will be released on May 1, 2012.)

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