Monday, October 27, 2014

Book Review: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

With a nod to Halloween, book club chose the genre of thrillers for October. I was happy for that because it meant I didn't have to read horror (which they'd already read before I joined). A thriller could have been anything, and I really had no idea what to read since this is outside my normal taste in books. I happened to be having a conversation with a colleague about the book she was reading at lunch, and she steered me towards Ransom Rigg's first book. I remember seeing the cover when it first came out and there was a bit of a buzz around the book - the cover is darn creepy. The synopsis sounded interesting enough, so off I went on a bizarre trip to Wales...

October 2014: Thriller

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
By Ransom Riggs
2011
352 pages

Jacob is quite disturbed after witnessing a family tragedy. The teenager carries fond memories of his grandfather and the weird stories he used to tell. In order to try solve his grandfather's mystery, Jacob convinces his dad to journey with him to Wales, to visit the orphanage his grandfather grew up in. Once he gets to the isolated Welsh island of his family's past, Jacob discovers the orphanage is gone...or is it. He eventually finds a time loop, and all the peculiar children of his grandfather's past. The children are being hunted by Hollowgasts and wights, and Jacob could be the only one who can help them, if he leaves his own time. Whatever will he do? Cue dramatic climax! Cue cliff hanger to set up the sequel/a series!

The book is less disturbing than the creepy cover. I thought Miss Peregrine would be an evil headmistress or something, but I don't think she is although she is a bit of an enigma (she can turn into a bird after all). The book is less scary than I thought it would be too - because it's actually a Young Adult book! I really did think it was an adult book, until half way through when I became somewhat disappointed with the easy surface quality of the prose and the cheesy teenage almost kissing scenes. YA, yep, that explains it. But yay because I think an adult book would've been much scarier. I found the first half a bit slow and the second half a bit fast so that evens out?

Riggs definitely has created a unique and interesting world. The peculiar children are...peculiar in their talents and abilities, the monsters are scary and a bit different than the usual, and the whole concepts of time loops was undeniably clever. I hate time travel stories however, and wouldn't have read this is I knew there was time travel in it. As far as that goes though, it wasn't as annoying as I usually find time travel, and necessary to the story, so I get it.

The best part of the book is the vintage black and white photographs throughout. They apparently are found photographs (actual, real, collections of the author's friends), but Riggs has mostly seamlessly incorporated them into the narrative. I say mostly because every once in awhile it would feel like he had to make the story/scene fit the photo, but for the most part I thought this was handled quite cleverly. The photographs really made the story, and created an extra layer of atmosphere and general creepiness.

This story would make a good film too - which is already in production, as directed by Tim Burton. Perfect.

I would recommend this book to anyone who like weird YA books. Would I read the sequel? Maybe, if only to see the photographs, but it's not really my thing. My colleague reckons it'll be a long series, and I'm not sure I want to get into that, but if you like YA and the cover image doesn't creep you out too much, you might enjoy it.

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