Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Published: June 7th, 2011 by Quirk
Genre(s): Young adult, paranormal, fantasy, suspense
Trigger Warnings: gore, death, gun violence, war
Pages: 352 pgs
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of curious photographs.
A horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.
A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.
Sometimes it’s absolutely best to go into a hyped-up book completely blind with no idea of what it’s actually about. Too many times have I found myself told “Oh my god, you totally need to read this book because it’s about whatever, and then this happens, and then they fall in love!” by friends or other book bloggers, only to be ultimately let down upon completing the book. (This totally happened when I read Eleanor and Park, by the way.) When it came to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, I knew that I wanted to have no expectations, no hints about the plot, nothing. Because it’s so beloved within the young adult reading community, this was one of those books that I needed to avoid at all costs in terms of people gushing over it. And, actually, I’m so glad I went about it this way because the roller coaster of a plot was so much more fun to experience organically.
Jacob Portman has always been somewhat influenced by the supernatural in one way or another. Growing up, his grandfather would often tell fantastical stories of his time in Wales during World War II, where he would encounter terrifying all-black creatures with three long, tentacle-like tongues. When he was younger, Jacob believed these stories like one would believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, but as time passed, he grew to fall out of the belief. However, once his grandfather is mysteriously killed by one of these mythical creatures, it doesn’t take long before he becomes swept up in solving the case behind not only the untimely passing, but the strange children’s home he heard so much about. Soon after finding the peculiar people he once believed to be nothing more than fairy tales, he becomes embroiled in the danger that not only targeted and killed his grandfather, but could also be targeting himself.
While some people may write Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children off as yet another rip-off of Marvel’s X-Men, the only true parallel between the two entities comes from both being set in a home secluded from mainstream society that serves as a sanctuary for superpowered children. I just wanted to put that out there in the beginning. Miss Peregrine’s provides a truly original, engaging plot that I honestly never wanted to put down unless I absolutely had to. It incorporates so many different themes without ever feeling like there’s too much happening: time travel, mental illness, war, being an outcast, and so on. The way in which Riggs paints his scenes with such stunning imagery is incredible; at points, especially when Jacob first visits the children’s home accompanied by said children, it really feels as if the audience is seeing things through his eyes. It really demonstrates that Riggs is a master of not telling his audience what’s going on, but rather laying it all bare and showing us, just like a good author is meant to do. Also, as has been mentioned in almost every review of this book, the creepy-as-hell found photos are incorporated so flawlessly within the story. Even though Riggs could have easily done without them due to his mastery of showing rather than telling, the photos added an extra creepy touch to the novel.
However, there were some areas that I felt really needed addressing and stopped it from being an altogether five-star book. Much to my chagrin, there was, of course, an unnecessary romantic side plot shoe horned into the story. As much as I love Emma Bloom’s character and want to see a book just with her life before Jacob came on the scene, the insta-love she felt for him once her initial weariness faded away ended up frustrating me to high heaven. It truly sucks that she essentially waited around for fifty or so years to hear back about anything regarding her true love, but it’s kind of unrealistic that she’d start crushing on the next new person that came her way once she realized that things weren’t going to work out with the original object of her affections. Literally nothing about this book would change if you took out the romance. Nothing. Additionally, there were more than a few plot holes that needed to be filled: the children going out of the loop for way longer than a few hours even though they weren’t supposed to, Jacob’s dad and his birding, how Jacob’s dad was going to explain his absence to his mother, why Victor’s body is kept in the room and isn’t decomposing, and more (that I can’t remember, but I dropped the book back at the library already). Come on, if I can count at least four plot holes that need fixing, there’s a little bit of a problem. I bet if the romance was dropped, then Riggs could have focused on fixing these points.
Overall, I’m pleased with Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and I can definitely see why it’s a series so beloved within the book blogging community. Riggs is a master of truly making the reader feel like they’re being incorporated into the action instead of merely a bystander watching everything on the sidelines. This tale that he weaves is absolutely perfect for the more chilling Halloween season; it really makes me want to immediately go to the library and get the other two books in the series, Hollow City and Library of Souls (if I didn’t have so much to read already). However, with all of the attention to detail he gives to making the found photos come to life, you’d think he’d use that same scrutiny to make sure there weren’t massive plot holes readers got stuck in akin to the Cairnholm Island’s dangerous bog holes. Regardless, I’m hooked — and I can’t help but wishing I was peculiar, too.
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