Author: Ransom Riggs
Age Group: Young adult
Publisher: Quirk Books
First Published: 2011
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Received for review from Quirk Books.
I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a very difficult book to summarise. The summary on Goodreads doesn’t quite do it justice, and after reading it myself I don’t believe it’s entirely accurate. It is portrayed as a gothic tale of ghosts and creepy children, but what it is is almost a fairy tale invaded by monsters, and the pictures give us visual clues along the way. But let’s try this.
Jacob is very close to his grandfather. He grows up being told magnificent stories of children with strange and wonderful powers, which for a while he almost believes but eventually passes them off as just another Santa Claus-esque farce. After his life is turned upside down, Jacob convinces his parents to let him go to the island his grandfather grew up on, the one he always talked about in his stories, to find answers. Answers that may be more than he bargained for.
My initial thoughts on Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children were that this is a book that has been very beautifully put together. The first thing I did, the first thing I always do with new books, was flicked through, already knowing that the story was accompanied by photos, I was struck by the rest of the pages, the ones with the words on. The words themselves are crisp and easy to read on good quality white paper, and the elegant brownish border at the bottom of each page gives you the perfect atmosphere for the time period in the story. Next I removed the jacket, which is something I always do with my hardbacks. I was surprised to find there was embossed on the front in old fashioned handwriting: ‘Alma Le Fay Peregrine’, which I felt was a nice touch.
The narrative itself reads much like a diary, although that isn’t its format, it does provide the reader with a much more intimate view into Jacob’s life and creates a comfort zone that makes it very easy to lose yourself in the story. The writing itself contains wonderful imagery, providing us with a clear image of Jacob’s surroundings. There are so many twists and turns in this story, and one or two gave me goosebumps, though that could have just been the open window, and some fast-paced scenes that will leave you on the edge of your proverbial seat. It is a one of a kind.
It’s mostly my personal preference that brought my rating down to a 4 because I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. It’s a very weird story, it reads like a dream that slowly becomes a nightmare and all throughout maintains this feeling of weirdness that you get from dreams, usually when you wake up and think, “Well that was odd.” It almost makes me wonder if Ransom Riggs, after looking through the collections of old photographs, dreamt about the people he had seen in these peculiar pictures and used it as inspiration.
There were a couple of things that didn’t quite add up, which not only would be spoilerous for me to say but they affected me so little that I can’t really remember them by now. It is something which has ruined good stories for me in the past, but these were barely noticeable to me. It also ends quite abruptly, though closing it just enough to not leave you too frustrated (unless you really don’t like cliffhangers) but open for a few more books in the future. I’m interested to see where the story goes, as I don’t doubt that this is just the first in the series, though I haven’t seen confirmation yet. If it is a stand-alone novel then we may have a problem.
It’s very interesting to note that 20th Century Fox have bought the film rights to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and I for one can’t wait to see how it turns out. I hope they give Jacob a little narrative to keep the diaryesque feel to the story, and I’m excited to see how everything looks, especially the island. I have a very clear picture in my mind of the island.
I recommend this to anybody who looks a good, weird read. It’s something a bit different and I think you really need to experience it for yourself. I’d also recommend it to mature young adult readers. There is a small amount of swearing, a gruesome scene or two, and a little intimacy, though nothing more than kissing.
I would also like to add that it’s best you don’t go into this expecting a scary story. There are monsters, it can be a little frightening if you’re sensitive to anything slightly scary and to those of you who are, I suggest you don’t read it at night just to be on the safe side (although I’m afraid of the dark and there were only a couple of pictures that bothered me much), as the title suggests, this is a story about a home for peculiar children and who they are.