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

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Ransom Riggs

Quirk Books (2011)
352 pages
YA / Sci-Fi / Fantasy

Purchase it from Amazon

A mysterious island.

An abandoned orphanage.

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 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.

Ransom Riggs is obsessed with old photographs; so much so that he collected some of the weirder ones he could find and created a weird little story out of them. It’s a cool idea that, on execution, was a little imperfect. When you have photographs taken from all over and claim that two different girls are actually the same character in the book, it can take away from the more visually-minded readers. While this seemed to bother some of my fellow book club members, I mostly accepted that I would have a difficult time pinpointing the exact ages and looks of the side characters and moved on.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is not the book I thought it was going to be. About a third of the way in, when I thought it would take a supernatural turn to the right, it zigzagged off to the left and left me a little in awe. Because being surprised by the turn of events left such an impression on me, I’m not going to say what that zigzag-y turn ended up being. Mostly Miss Peregrine is a story with a fast paced plot and hollow characters. I was so enamored with the story being told though that I didn’t care that I couldn’t tell the various young boys apart. It was adventure and suspense and a little romance that was vaguely creepy, and it was fun.

Jacob has a crazy grandfather who has crazy stories and photographs from his childhood. When he sees a monster nearby after finding his grandfather’s murdered body, he has what his parents consider to be a nervous breakdown, raving about monsters and other crazy ideas. In an attempt to end the all-consuming nightmares that haunt him, Jacob goes to the Welsh island where his grandfather grew up and the source of all his crazy stories and photographs to see if he can find the truth behind the madness. He does and the truth ends up being madness.

There’s a lot of running from here to there, hunting things down or lying to avoid getting caught. Jacob reads younger than he actually is while some of the younger children read older than they are (though that part makes a little more sense considering… well, read the book). It has the air of a dark faerie tale, the only kind I think could exist on the moors of a sparsely populated Welsh island. It’s adventure in the pouring rain with a desolate abandoned building tumbling around Jacob’s head as he attempts to learn the truth about his grandfather and maybe even himself.

It’s not the best written book. Most of the secondary characters are weak, but entertaining and now knowing this is the first in a series, Riggs has wide open spaces to fill in with more madness. But it’s compelling and addictive, the type of book that you curse being gainfully employed because you want to stay up until the early hours consuming every last page in one go. Riggs creates a haunted world that was easy to slip into, but didn’t linger in a hazy depression for very long once the book ended. So basically it’s just really fun.

I look forward to reading the sequel though I feel that Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children had a beginning and an end that satisfied all my story-telling needs. Though more adventures await Jacob and his new peculiar friends, I felt that the underlying story of Jacob discovering the truth about his grandfather and his own lineage was completed, and as that was the main plot thread, I came away more satisfied than my fellow club members.

But mostly it’s just a lot of peculiar fun.