Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
by Ransom Riggs
Original Publishing Date: June 7, 2011
Length: 352 pages
Publisher: Quirk Books
Obtained Via: Borrowed from Library
Format Read In: Hardback
View from the Traffic Light:
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.
Oh book, where did you go wrong? I’ve been curious about Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children for awhile now, for a myriad of reasons. I’ve heard some good things and some average things from reviewers, but I was still interested, if not a little afraid. You see, I am a scaredy-cat when it comes to horror stuff, and I’ll be the first to admit it. Yet, the idea of mixed media books sounds SO COOL, and brought me back a few (surprisingly good) Junior High memories.
In sixth grade, I had a teacher who made us do this writing exercise every Friday. She had a collection of weird photographs, and we all drew out of a box. That photograph was ours for the class period, and our assignment was to write as much as we could of a story in which that photograph would play a scene. It was a really fun exercise and made me interested in the idea of mixing together visual and text to tell a story.
Unfortunately, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children didn’t really live up to the idea I built in my head. The story starts off with a bang–and some spectacularly creepy photographs–but as the story went on, I felt the photographs were more and more less relevant to the story. Whereas in the beginning I thought Riggs did a good job of mixing the media, but the middle I felt the photographs were being forced into the story where there wasn’t really a place for them.
As for the actual story itself, it went on quite a downward spiral. The beginning was WONDERFUL. The first 80 pages of this book had me so engrossed. The voice of the main character, Jacob, was a little different, but it was different in a way I liked, before I started really disliking him. Now, Jacob has been through a lot, obviously, so I don’t blame his character at the beginning, but as the story went on he just became more insufferable. He suffers some from the informed character trait–as is, we’re told as readers that he has a certain character trait, but I never actually saw any EVIDENCE of him having that character trait. He wasn’t an awful main character, he just wasn’t very compelling either.
As the page numbers grew higher, however, and some of the mystery vanished, the story just became. . . unfocused. Suddenly, instead of being this different and sort of creepy tale, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children became just like the few horror stories I’m familiar with. There were a LOT of tropes I’ve seen used before, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I just didn’t feel this book offered anything different in this genre. I was so entertained at the beginning, but by the middle I kept thinking, “Hmm, I feel I’ve read a story similar to this before”.
Also, the romance in this book: EW. So Jacob, our main character, is on this creepy island where all these weird things can go on and is surrounded by peculiar children, and decides he needs to flirt with a peculiar girl that his GRANDFATHER was in love with at his age. This does not scream romance to me at all, and is probably the main thing that made this book slip from the “likable” range to the “not-such-a-fan” range. Now, there are some more things about this relationship that I can’t really say without getting spoilery, but basically, just yeah, ick.
Final Impression: I thought this book had a really strong beginning, but once things actually started being revealed it went rapidly downhill. I liked the way Riggs used voice and I’ll probably read more books of his in the future, but not in this series. Jacob was a hard-to-pinpoint main character who began to have a really creepy romance that I just couldn’t buy into, and I thought this book used a lot of over-played tropes without offering anything new. The mixed media format was cool, but I think the pictures could have been incorporated in a way that showcased them more and fit the story better, especially towards the end. 2/5 cupcakes.