Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs

Miss PeregrineMiss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs

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A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. And a strange collection of very curious photographs. It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. 

As our story opens, 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 who once lived here – one of whom was his own grandfather – were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a desolate island for good reason.

And somehow – impossible though it seems – they may still be alive.

Three Stars

So this book came out a while ago, and I kept meaning to read it, and then I kept not reading it because shiny new things kept catching my eye, until finally I was in a used bookstore with my boyfriend (yep, our dates are awesome) and found a hardcover copy in perfect condition, and how can anybody resist that?

You should know that this review is a little spoilery, although it doesn’t really broach anything that I as a reader hadn’t guessed pretty early on in the book.  So, spoilers if you’re not a guesser?

 

The way this story is told really interests me.  Incorporating found photographs could get really gimmicky, but I think it works quite well in this case; it’s used with care and restraint.  In fact, this is just all-around a really well put-together book, visually.  Which is good, because it starts slowly; it took me a while to really get into what was happening.  It wasn’t until Jacob finally arrived in Wales—68 pages in—that I started getting really interested in the story.  Most of the beginning was necessary, and I’m not actually sure how it could have been more engaging, so I probably shouldn’t complain.

Once he does get to Wales it’s a very locational, atmospheric story, and I do love that sort of thing.  I’m normally not turned on by freak-show stories, but this one does pretty well; I love the concept for where they’re hiding, as well as the fact that birds are time travelers.  BIRDS ARE TIME TRAVELERS.  That’s one of those things that just sounds RIGHT—it’s fairy-tale logic, put forth with no explanation or apology.

A lot of this book has fairy-tale logic.  I love fairy-tale logic.  But it causes some problems, because sometimes it feels like this book can’t decide if it’s using world-logic (Grandpa fought in a war and is therefore traumatized) or dream-logic (birds are time travelers, deal with it).  This occasionally causes some problems where it’s hard to tell which logic is being employed: our kid’s psychiatrist says he should go to Wales and instead of questioning his effectiveness as a psychiatrist we’re just going to send him to Wales and let him wander around unsupervised with people we don’t know despite the fact that he’s behaved in a mentally unstable fashion and we probably should be keeping an eye on him.  I don’t want to say plot holes, but, plot holes, sort of.  Especially later on, in ways that I can’t talk about because they’re spoilery.  There’s a fairly significant contrast between the real world and—for lack of a better term—Miss Peregrine’s world, and they don’t always fit together perfectly.  But then, portal fantasy is hard to pull off without moments of weirdness at the best of times, and this story is very, very different from most other portal fantasies I’ve read, so it’s not like there’s a precedent to go off of.

Huh.  I have startlingly few thoughts on this book.  All in all, I enjoyed it.  It was interesting, and it held my attention.  It didn’t grab me; I wasn’t emotionally affected by it.  I wasn’t on the edge of my seat demanding to know more, or aching for the characters’ plight.  I think it was more of an intellectual experience for me than an emotional one—I just liked seeing the eccentricities of the world and the way they interacted with real life.  I wasn’t absorbed by the characters, but I was really fascinated by the concepts, and that in itself is a very good reason to read a book.  As concept stories go, this one was unique and very cool, and I had fun with it.

Two things you might find interesting:

  • The ending sets up a sequel, although I don’t know if there’s going to be one.  I think it can stand as it is, but a lot of people will disagree with me, so, open ending alert!
  • Those photographs?  They’re all vintage.  They were not manufactured for this story; they were found this way.  Complete with the weirdness.  And then incorporated into a story about weirdness.  Remember how I said this was more of an intellectual book for me?  My intellectual brain thinks that’s AWESOME.  (And sounds like a ridiculous amount of work.)
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