The Peculiars by Maureen Doyle McQuerry
On her 18th birthday, Lena Mattacascar decides to search for her father, who disappeared into the northern wilderness of Scree when Lena was young. Scree is inhabited by Peculiars, people whose unusual characteristics make them unacceptable to modern society. Lena wonders if her father is the source of her own extraordinary characteristics and if she, too, is Peculiar. On the train she meets a young librarian, Jimson Quiggley, who is traveling to a town on the edge of Scree to work in the home and library of the inventor Mr. Beasley. The train is stopped by men being chased by the handsome young marshal Thomas Saltre. When Saltre learns who Lena’s father is, he convinces her to spy on Mr. Beasley and the strange folk who disappear into his home, Zephyr House. A daring escape in an aerocopter leads Lena into the wilds of Scree to confront her deepest fears.
Lena is a sympathetic character who has felt out of place her entire life because of a physical deformity. She believes her father may be a Peculiar living in Scree, a rough area and safe haven of sorts for Peculiars. Her new friend (and love interest) young Jimson has a scientific mind and is naturally skeptical and doesn’t believe the rumors of Peculiars. But even Jimson is forced to open his mind when he witnesses a girl with wings outside of Mr. Beasley’s home.
This young adult novel is a charming blend of steampunk, scifi/fantasy and romance. McQuerry’s early American world of mutant Peculiars is mysterious and captivating. With steam-powered gadgets, colorful characters, and a suspenseful plot – it easily made my list of top books of 2012. The Peculiars is a beautiful coming-of-age story, unique and impossible to put down. I’ll be looking forward to a sequel which will hopefully answer more questions behind the Peculiars lore.