Book Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
‘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 a good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.’
How excited I was to get my hands on this book! I posted about the fantastic trailer on the blog a few weeks back (which only increased my desire to read it), which Quirk books saw, and very kindly offered to send me a copy!
Firstly I just have to point out how gorgeous the book is. Quirk books have really outdone themselves with the design and quality of Miss Peregrine. Definitely buy the hardback copy of this rather than waiting for the paperback (assuming there will be one), the pages have a lovely thick quality to them, and the photographs have reproduced well. There are lots of lovely little details that combine to create a Victorian feel: patterned endpapers, little ornate swirls bordering the page numbers, traditional borders surrounding the vintage photographs so that they appear as in an old-fashioned photograph album, an embossed signature on the front of the physical book. It’s simply lovely to look at.
I intend to be a bit vague in this review as, other than the trailer and synopsis, I went into this book not knowing anything much about it, and I think it’s best read that way.
I definitely think it is the photographs that really make this book – they are so creepy and unnerving that they just draw you in. Everything creates such a sense of mystery that you can’t help by wanting to find out what’s going on. I loved that the photographs were real Victorian photos that inspired the story rather than being created specifically for the book (and it just makes them all the more disturbing once you know this fact). It adds something special, and even though I very much enjoyed the story, I can’t help but want to know the real stories and people behind these snapshots.
I loved the whole look and feel of Miss Peregrine. Vintage photography, the Victorian era, added in the promise of what looked to be a deliciously creepy ghost story set in a different period, and I was hooked.
Miss Peregrine isn’t quite the book you imagine it will be; Riggs turns everything on its head around halfway through, once we meet the peculiar children, and the story takes on a more fantasy-like feel. This isn’t a bad thing, but it’s certainly not what I was expecting, and I have to admit to being a tad disappointed I didn’t get my Victorian ghost story, though I certainly found where Rigg’s take us very interesting. Some of the concepts I loved, *spoiler* the time loops, in particular, *end spoiler* others, not so much.
Aside from the wonderfully creative peculiar children (who I felt shined whenever they were in a scene and who I hope we get to know much better in the next book), I felt the characterization was a little off. The villains were a bit too cartoon-like at times, and I wished we could have understood their motives better. Jacob was a strange protagonist, and I never quite clicked with him, though I’m not really sure why. Often he would come out with words or phrases that made him sound about 70 years old instead of a teenager. Despite these slight issues, the story was engaging, and the strong sense of mystery and strangeness meant I was intrigued to discover what exactly was going on.
Miss Peregrine starts off quite slow and builds up. To begin with, we focus on the stories Jacob’s grandfather used to tell him and witness Jacob dealing with a traumatic event that leads him to seek out the truth about the peculiar children. The second half does get complicated, and I have to admit that I really had to focus and re-read some sections to fully grasp what was going on in places. I enjoyed it all, even though the tone and feel of the book altered drastically in the second part.
There is some romance – but I’ll let you decide for yourself what you think about it – like everything else, the romance in this book is strange and not quite the norm. I should say that there are two love stories here. The first, I adored. It was sad and bittersweet and heartbreaking but, in a way, very real (despite the unusual circumstances). The other romance, between Jacob and another character, is… odd for several reasons.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a unique book – I’ve not read anything quite like it before. There were some truly great elements that I loved, and that gave me chills, and there were some twists and aspects that I was less sure of. I certainly didn’t get the reading experience I expected. I think it drifted a little too far into the fantasy/adventure genre to make it as peculiar and creepy as I was hoping it would be, but it’s a wonderful read nonetheless. Did everything work for me? Well, no, but it’s still very creative and beautifully put together. If you’re looking for something a little bit special and a little different, definitely check this one out.
Recommended Reading Age: 14+
Many thanks to Quick books and Mat for a review copy of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children