My mom, in case you aren't acquainted, has pretty sedate taste. When it comes to action and violence, she's more Princess Bride than Kill Bill. She reacts frownily when I curse in her presence. She describes the mild salsa at Mexican restaurants as “zippy.”
Clearly, not all the books I recommend here will be Mom-appropriate. So Mom, this book selection is for you, and for any other readers whose tastes run toward the tamer side of literature. After my last recommendation, I probably owe you this one.
Hollow City is Ransom Riggs's second venture into a strange world where children with special powers live together in a time loop maintained by an elderly benefactress. His first book, Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children, introduces the narrator, sixteen-year-old Jacob, and the cast of children he meets on a seemingly deserted island. Hollow City picks up the adventure where the first book left it, with the children on their own, forced out of their home and desperate to save their magical custodian Miss Peregrine.
The book is a breathless adventure from beginning to end, with swift momentum and few lags. The children overcome one obstacle only to have another thrust immediately upon them. Each child gets a chance to contribute using his or her special talent, and even when they seem to be out of options, someone manages to spin straw into gold and keep them moving ahead. Jacob is a likable hero, a bit awkward and sometimes cowardly, but his strong moral compass always wins out over his fear. His romance with Emma, the independent, practical leader of the group (who, as it happens, can manifest fire between her hands), is sweet but not idyllic.
Beyond these elements of a good story, what sets this series apart from other YA adventure novels are the screwy, surreal vintage photographs that Riggs pairs with the narrative. You'll read a description of a talking dog with green-tinted glasses and a pipe in his mouth, and then you'll turn the page and discover a photo of a dog adorned with these exact accessories. Riggs started out by searching for photos at flea markets and antique stores, and now works with collectors to find the perfect photos to inspire his paranormal storylines.
Because the photos do so much to enhance the reading experience of these books, I strongly recommend you skip the ebook section and find a paper copy to read. I happened to read the first book on Kindle because I didn't know any better, and the grainy, black and white photos on the screen didn't carry near the weight that they do on the page.
Bottom line: Read this book, and hold the hot sauce.