Monday, March 16, 2015

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Reviewed by Meygan Cox

“I don’t mean to be rude,” I said, “but what are you people?”
“We’re peculiar,” he replied, sounding a bit puzzled. “Aren’t you?”
“I don’t know. I don’t think so.”
“That’s a shame.”

Jacob is a teenage boy born into an affluent lifestyle. He states that he loves his mother only because that is what he is supposed to do and even though he likes his father, he is frustrated that his father never finishes a project (e.g. the numerous novels with a beginning but no end). The only person Jacob feels connected to is his grandfather who is a very peculiar man. Ever since Jacob was a child, his grandfather told him stories about other peculiar children he grew up with in an orphage on an island. Jacob, enjoying his grandfather’s stories but at the time same time concerned about his sanity, finally admits to his grandfather that he doesn’t believe what he is hearing. After that moment, his grandfather no longer tells Jacob about the peculiar children or the island until the night Jacob and his friend, Ricky, find his grandfather’s mauled body in the snow. Barely clinging to life, Grandfather tells Jacob that he must find a bird in the loop on the other side of the old man’s grave. He also tells him to remember September 3rd, 1940, whatever all that mumbo jumbo means. As Jacob watches his grandfather take his last breath, he can’t help but feel that he is being watched. When Jacob looks up, a monster is staring at him from the bushes. Ricky shoots at the movement in the bushes but doesn’t get a good look at whatever it is. After losing his grandfather and seeing a monster, an overwhelmed Jacob passes out. 

Months later, Jacob is taken to a therapist. No one believes what he saw in the woods that night, and the therapist convinces Jacob that the monster was just an illusion. However, Jacob discovers where the orphanage is located and with the help of his therapist, he persuades his father to take a trip there. His father is reluctant at first but then agrees. (He hears that there are rare bird species on the island and studying the birds will allow him the opportunity to finish his new novel!) Jacob finally gets to the location, but to his dismay there is only an abandoned house. Not wanting to travel thousands of miles just to go back home, Jacob decides to explore the house. After finding peculiar pictures (there’s that word again) in a trunk, Jacob hears a girl ask for Abe, Jacob’s grandfather. Jacob follows the voice until he eventually catches up to the girl. Except for not only has he caught up to a girl who can ignite fire from her hands, but he has also entered a “time loop” that has taken him back to the 1940s.

I am still perplexed by this book. I finished it thinking, “What did I just read?” I read Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children because I had been asked for it so often. Apparently, it is quite popular. When I was finally able to lay my hands on the book, I checked it out immediately. Let me begin by saying why I didn’t care much for the book. First, I thought the author worked too hard with TRYING to make the unusual (trying to avoid “peculiar”) pictures fit into his story instead of writing his story and then inserting the pictures. I thought some of the pictures were neat and freaky looking, but some of them made me laugh out loud because I thought the placement was too “worked into” the book. I give him a B+ for his use of creativity, but I can’t give him the full A+ because there were some pictures that didn’t add anything to the story. 

Also, I had a difficult time liking any of the characters, including Jacob. I felt that the author only scratched the surface with character analysis. By the last page of the book, I felt that I hadn’t learned anything at all about Jacob except that I thought he was dull. I wish Riggs would have delved more into their backgrounds even if that meant eliminating a few people to invest more time in the main characters. His friend in the beginning, Ricky, is never brought up after the first few chapters, which I found pointless. Why introduce a character that isn’t that very interesting anyways just to never mention him again? However, there is a second book so perhaps we will see Ricky again. 

Not to give too much away, but I also feel that the “powers” of the peculiar children are cliché. Where else have we read about invisibility (Marvel’s Invisible Girl), pyrokinesis (again, Marvel’s Dr. Storm from the Fantastic Four), the power of levitation/flight (a numerous amount of superheroes), those who are animorphs (can turn into animals i.e. Jacob from Twilight, shape shifters from True Blood), etc., and the characters who were “original”, well, they just weren’t that special.  

So what did I like about the book? Honestly, I am not sure. I don’t have an “I have to read the second book right away” kind of feeling, but I do have the feeling of “Eh, I may get to the second book sometime this year”. I am excited that Tim Burton is directing the movie in 2016. Hollywood couldn’t have chosen a person more suitable to give Miss Peregrine the spooky feeling it deserves. Due to the ominous cover, I felt that Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children should have made me sleep with my night light on. (Not that I still own a night light. Cough, cough!) But sadly, while there were parts that I found revolting, I was able to go to sleep right away after reading. Hopefully you will enjoy this book more than I did!

Note:  An earlier review of this book appears here.  Every book is not for every person, which is a good thing! The sequel to this book is entitled Hollow City.

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