Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (Advanced Reader Copy)
Release Date: June 7, 2011
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Mystery, Adventure
Summary: Jacob Portman grew up listening to his grandfather’s fantastic stories about his life at Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, and looking at photographs of children who were peculiar indeed. A levitating girl, an invisible boy… all found a safe haven under Miss Peregrine’s watch from the terrible monsters who sought them.
But when Jacob gets older, he realizes that the stories can’t possibly be true, and all of those old photographs must have been faked. Meanwhile, his grandfather gets more paranoid every day that the monsters will find him.
When something terrible happens, Jacob journeys to the tiny island that was his grandfather’s home to prove to himself once and for all that the stories aren’t true. But the truth is far more peculiar than he ever imagined.
As the first young adult novel published by Quirk Books, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children was two of our favorite things from the get-go! And it did not disappoint! Miss Peregrine is silly, sad, creepy, scary, lovely, socially awkward, and everything else you could want from a teen fantasy book. Whatever you think it is about, you are guaranteed to be surprised, and pleasantly so. (A few of those surprises may be spoiled in the following reviews, but if you’d like a better idea of what you’re in for with this book, READ ON!)
In a way, this book is two different books, and I loved both of them.
First you start off with this beautiful prologue about a kid hearing amazing stories from his grandfather, and then realizing that the stories aren’t true, and that his grandfather is just old and sad. Reading this prologue felt like falling down the rabbit hole–I was sucked in.
Then you find out that this kid, Jacob, grows up to be wonderfully sarcastic and does things like make replicas of the Empire State Building out of boxes of adult diapers because he hates his job. He’s clever and observant and extremely ambivalent about being extremely rich, all of which makes him really interesting.
Then something terrible happens, (the tremendous moment of Jacob’s “Before” and “After”) and you realize this book can go in three ways:
1) Jake goes to the island where his grandfather grew up and discovers that all of the stories were just that: stories, and he learns the painful truths of his grandfather’s childhood.
2) Jake goes to the island and discovers that while the stories aren’t *real*, they are *true* in some unexpected way
3) Jake goes to the island and discovers that all of the stories are real
When I first started reading, I LEAST suspected the third option. It turns out, this book is LOADED with supernatural shenanigans and a cool and interesting mythology which, although it took a bit of excessive exposition to explain, I was quite thrilled to learn about.
This is where the “two books” feeling occurs to me. I really liked the beginning of the book, and being caught inside Jacob’s head and not being sure whether or not he was going crazy. And I really like when you find out he ISN’T crazy, and the adventure really begins and it’s magical and fun and exciting! However, I feel that Jacob, whom I liked so much, gets a bit lost once the adventure starts. He still learns new things about himself, but with everything happening, there was just less time for his commentary (although I enjoyed the moments when we did get some–such as his various concerns about snogging his grandfather’s ex-girlfriend). But then again, everything happening was awesome, so it was a fair tradeoff.
I loved how disturbing some parts of the book were. Jacob’s first sighting of a monster–a hollow, as we learn they’re called. Waking the dead man with his empty chest and shredded face. And some of the photographs, the dog-boy one in particular, gave me chills. I wouldn’t have minded the creepiness going even further.
Basically, the writing is beautiful, the story and characters are fascinating, and the world is totally believable. This is the kind of book that makes you look around and think that there could be any number of extraordinary things happening, just waiting to be discovered. Reading a book like this feels like waking up.
(For anyone curious for a visual on the monsters, have an Ood!)
((Hugh is COVERED IN BEES.))
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. That is a great title, to start. And the book was great to match. Yes, I actually put down Storm of Swords and read this book and I’m glad!
The beginning is confusing – Jacob’s grandfather tells him all these fantastic tales that couldn’t be true. However, he seems to have photographic proof – a boy with bees living inside him, a girl who floats above the ground, a teen lifting a giant boulder with one hand. The photos are eerie, but captivating and you grow accustomed to their creepiness that lend the most amazing tone and atmosphere to the story as a whole.
As Jacob gets older, he begins to suspect that his grandfather was not always telling him the truth. From his father he learns that his grandfather did have to leave his home and live in a children’s home – but he was really running because he was a Jew living in Poland and the “monsters” that were after him were the Nazis. Jacob eventually tells his grandfather he doesn’t want to listen to “fairy stories” anymore and you can tell his grandfather is hurt by this, but doesn’t mention the children’s home or his strange photos again.
The story continues normally and does remind me a bit of John Green with the somewhat outcast teen boy getting up to shenanigans and just trying to make it through high school and his crappy part time job.
To be honest, even after his grandfather’s terrifying death – I was a little bit afraid this would turn out to NOT be a supernatural story at all. Maybe Jacob’s grandfather really was just making up stories…
Which is why I was even MORE happy when he finally found Miss Peregrine and I realized that this book is like X-Men/Groundhog’s Day/Brigadoon/Supernatural. And apparently when those things are combined, amazing things happen. I mean, if there’s one thing I love – it’s time travel shenanigans.
The book was an incredibly quick read – really exciting, fast paced plot with tons of mystery and cool stuff to unfold. It’s fun to discover the secrets along with Jacob – all of which I found very interesting and totally worth the wind up. It’s also cool to see Jacob discover strength within himself – he can have friends, he can take care of himself, girls can be attracted to him, and he can kill monsters.
I also enjoy that this book very obviously sets itself up to have at least one and possibly many sequels, BUT at the same time is satisfying to me as a place to stop. The peculiars are off on their adventure and whether I get to read all about it or not – I’m glad they let me in as much as they did.
Really though – it’s all about the photos. They are creepy and strange and just enthralling to look at. It’s so amazing that these are real collections – that people have dedicated their lives to procuring and saving all of those amazing relics. It’s hard to describe exactly how you feel looking at them – I suggest you try it for yourself!
So, I might be the only one who doesn’t like the photographs as they are. On their own, the found images are very cool things, and I know that they’re an integral part of the story’s structure. Buuut I found the photographs to be kind of distracting. Riggs describes the photos so well in the text, and then he plugs them in for us to see. It’s a little redundant. It also felt like those writing prompts on 8th grade standardized tests. Look at this picture, and then write a story about it. It’s the inspiration behind the story, but by showing it to us, it’s like revealing your outline. There was also one that the story attached to it was super-forced (at least to me). The picture is of a boy in a bunny suit with ridiculously large ears. The way it was worked into the text seemed unnecessary, as if Riggs just wanted to use the picture because it was interesting. I wish the pictures had all been at the end or something, or maybe less of them or cut out the descriptions so it’s not repetitive. As it stands, I felt they were rather gimmicky.
Besides that gripe, I really enjoyed this book. It’s a big sweeping adventure that’s still grounded in the experiences of Jake. As a narrator, I liked that he was so self-aware and a little bit skeptical and a whole lot sarcastic. Reading his interactions with the world was really enjoyable, especially those with the peculiar children. English majory things – I enjoyed the exploration of entrapment. Jake’s life before going into the time loop is pretty much planned out – high school, college, work as an executive in the family owned drugstore chain. The peculiars are permanently stuck in one day, an eternal youth that loops continuously. Even though it sounds idyllic, 80 years of the same day is just another prison. Both groups are in a stasis until the creepy wights enter their lives and change everything. As Jake puts it, it’s the Before and After. The end of childhood that must come for everyone; it’s so Joycean! And a little bit John Green-ian. Except in Jake’s case, it comes with time travel, invisible boys, fire-bending girls, and a fight against an evil that wants to take over the world. In short – awesome.
I had a lot of expectations when I started Quirk Books first young adult novel. I was under the assumption that it was a frame story a la The Princess Bride (R.I.P. PETER FALK!!!! ::sniffles::) meets The Island of Dr. Moreau. So basically Abe telling Jacob stories about his stint at Mrs. Peregrine’s orphanage. In actuality, the novel ended up being Groundhog Day meets X-Men, with the infinite time loop that the peculiars are stuck in being Bill Murray’s purgatory like Groundhog Day and the peculiars themselves being the X-Men, hiding from a world that’s frightened of them. Although there are no groundhogs and no matching spandex suits.
There’s the headmistress Miss Peregrine who controls time and can shape shift into a peregrine (a falcon for you non-Ornithologists or people who are too lazy to use Google and/or Wikipedia), Emma the fire starter, Millard the invisible boy, Olive who can levitate, Claire who has an additional mouth behind her head, Hugh who has bees living in his stomach, Bronwyn the strong girl, Fiona who controls plants, Horace who dreams of the future, and Enoch who has the ability to transfer life from one object to another. Sadly none of them are blue, can teleport, or have ridiculous sound effects like BAMF! and SNIKT!
The peculiars, as with all superheroes (or in this case prior circus performers- same thing?) have their own villains to battle, in this instance deformed peculiars bent on discovering immortality. After an experiment gone wrong these peculiars morphed into hollowgasts, evil creatures who live in horrible pain that can only be assuaged by eating peculiars. They also have tentacles for mouths, bringing tentacle rape and Cthulhu fetishes to a whole new level (insert cunnilingus related tentacle joke here). After feeding enough they are then able to transform into wights and pass about in normal human society, Jeffrey Dahmer being one such known wight who kept his taste for flesh. The narrator refers to them as “something out of David Lynch’s nightmares”, a reference I both appreciate and am frightened by. What could David Lynch possibly have nightmares about? Probably something much worse than the man behind Winkie’s.
A big selling point of the novel are the vintage photographs that Riggs introduces. The photos scattered throughout the novel intertwine with the plot and often seem to inform/create the narrative. Sometimes this works extremely well, as in the beginning of the novel when Abe is literally showing them to Jacob and less so later on, when the connections to the photos seem forced. Occasionally, but not often, the narrative seems to merely skew off to discuss a non-event merely so the author has an excuse to use the photo. It’s like how manatees write “Family Guy”. Once or twice I felt this happening with the photos, but it was my only major complaint in this extremely entertaining novel.
WHAT WE LIKED MOST:
-THE PHOTOGRAPHS. So cool! And creepy. And REAL.
-The rap lyrics, “I showed her the time, like Doctor Who”
-We love the fantasy, especially because it’s
WHAT WE LIKED LEAST:
-We possibly lose Jacob somewhat as a narrator even as he grows as a person
-The use of some of the photos seemed forced–but they’re so cool we’re not really complaining!
-Um…? (Just read this book, it’s GREAT.)
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children: Book Trailer
In lieu of a July Bibliomantic Book Club, the Bibliomantics will be live updating from this year’s Harry Potter convention: Leakycon in Orlando, Florida from July 13th through the 17th. Check back here, or follow @Bibliomantics on Twitter for reports on the nerdiest adventure of the summer! (For slightly drunker con commentary, follow the Bibliomantics individually: @yrchmonger, @MsLoudLibrarian, @LavendarLuv3, @loveofstrings.)
Join us in two month’s time when we review our August Bibliomantic Book Club Book: Peeps by Scott Westerfeld.