Review: Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children Ransom Riggs
Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children Ransom Riggs cover

Title: Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children 
Author: Ransom Riggs 
Series: Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children #1 
Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy, YA 
Publication date: June 7, 2011 
Rating: ★★★★ 

A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of curious photographs. 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.

Story wise this book only deserves a three star rating. The fourth star is exclusively for the pictures included. The traditional black and white photographs are images of the characters, often showing their ‘peculiar’ abilities. But they’re not just photos. A lot of them are real works of art. And none of them has been taken for this book. Ransom Riggs spent ages locating all of them and trying to convince the owners to give them up. So yes, this deserves an extra star.

This means the story is only worthy of three stars. It was okay I guess, but I couldn’t bring myself to really love it. This book is supposed to tell a horror story. One for young adults, agreed, but still a scary tale. And it wasn’t. Not because I’m not easily frightened, but because not even children would find it scary. Not that it has to be of course, but maybe then it shouldn’t be promoted as ‘spine-tingling’ and ‘haunting’. None of which were reasons for me to pick it up anyway.

The story. Jacob is a completely average teenage boy who doesn’t get along with his parents too well. Instead he often seeks the company of his grandfather who used to fight in the war and is somewhat of a hero to him. When Jacob was a kid, he used to tell him the most amazing stories. Countless tales of him and a bunch of children with special abilities living in an orphanage on a small island somewhere along the coast of Wales. It was only when Jacob got older that he realized those stories couldn’t possibly be true. Still, he liked the way they made him feel and he would always remember them. Especially when one day, his grandfather (who’s started to suffer from dementia) gets lost in the woods and is found dead. To find some closure, he and his father visit the island with the orphanage. Jacob is determined to retrace the steps of his grandfather’s past and to find out what really happened all those years ago.

We cling to our fairy tales until the price for believing in them becomes too high.

Doesn’t sound too bad, does it? The idea was good. Especially when the orphanage turns out to be still inhabited by those same kids Jacob has been hearing about for years in his grandfather’s stories. So what didn’t work then? For one, the pace was too slow in the beginning. I wouldn’t say it was boring exactly, but it didn’t ignite that spark to keep reading. I also didn’t really care about Jacob. He was nice enough, smart enough, adventurous enough etc. but nothing made him stand out. I didn’t dislike him, but I didn’t really like him either. He was just okay. And that’s a word I’ve used before and is basically the word that describes the entire book. It pains me to say this, because I actually had really high expectations.

The peculiar children provided the most interesting part of the story. It was exciting to learn about their history and their abilities and how they could have possibly survived all this time, but they mostly remained a group of children. They each had their own special trait, but except for some brief demonstrations of the most important abilities, they remained pretty superficial. I could tell you all about what they can do, but not a lot about who they are. Maybe that’s too much of me to ask, I’m aware. The book isn’t that long and maybe the next one will explore them in more depth. It’s just something I missed. Emma was the only peculiar child that we got to know on a deeper level and she was the only character in the book that I felt a real connection to. I liked her (and the tragedy of her life).

The introduction of an evil force brought more action to the story and I’m looking forward to seeing that part developed beyond the first book. I found the ‘monsters’ a bit ridiculous, but the force behind them offers a lot of possibility. There’s a bigger picture now and I’m curious as to how it will affect Jacob and his newfound friends.

Stars, too, were time travelers. How many of those ancient points of light were the last echoes of suns now dead? How many had been born but their light not yet come this far? If all the suns but ours collapsed tonight, how many lifetimes would it take us to realize we were alone? I had always known the sky was full of mysteries—but not until now had I realized how full of them the earth was.

So should you read this book? That’s something you’ll have to decide for yourself. I don’t feel like reading it has been a waste of my time. I’d hoped it to be more, but it was still a nice book. Especially because the antique photographs add to the experience.

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