Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Author: Ransom Riggs

Published: June 2011

Number of Pages: 352

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis:

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 good reason.

And somehow – impossible though it seems – they may still be alive [From Goodreads]

Quote:

“I used to dream about escaping my ordinary life, but my life was never ordinary. I had simply failed to notice how extraordinary it was.”

Review:

This is the sort of book that is impossible not to judge by its cover. The cover is awesome. I think that was what initiated the book club girls’ interest in it. Thankfully, the book itself is great, too.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is not at all what I expected. I was hoping for a bit more creepiness and scare-factor, but I was generally satisfied by the read. I enjoyed that history was woven into the story quite deftly by the hands of the author. The premise was interesting and the development of the plot fun to observe, but I found that the characters were lacking life.

That’s quite a statement about a book that I still rated 4/5, but let me explain. There was nothing particularly unlikable about the characters. Some of them were witty, some were sweet, some were gruff but kind. They had personalities, sure. However, their personalities were packaged, two-dimensional, and rather uninteresting. I felt like there was little or no character development. Jacob, in particular, seems much younger than he really is. This, along with the character’s two-dimensional-ness, caused the romantic subplot to feel forced and awkward. Actually, one of the characters I found most intriguing was Jacob’s dad, and he plays a rather insignificant role in the story. Characterization and character development were undoubtedly this book’s greatest flaws, which is disappointing to a person who reads primarily for characters.

All the same, it’s the premise of the series that saves it. I love the ideas that Riggs toys with and am excited by the direction in which I believe the story is headed. The magical elements are fascinating and allow the book to stand out from the sea of YA titles. Riggs does a good job of revealing the character’s secrets and abilities, answering just enough questions and revealing just enough through the course of the story to keep the reader satisfied but curious.

Jacob’s voice, despite his character’s static qualities, was another high-point of the novel. His occasional wittiness was just the sort of spark that the book needs more of. I wish the dialogue had been as witty and less scripted (a confusing description, considering this is a book and therefore “scripted” by default, but you know what I mean). Overall, being inside Jacob’s head is enjoyable and comfortable. His bits of insight are welcome but not conspicuous enough to disrupt the narration.

In the end, I found Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children‘s greatness relies heavily on the use of old photographs. Riggs spent hours going through people’s collections of photographs in order to find some that fascinated him, and then he worked those into the story whenever he could. I appreciate that hard work and can attest that it pays off. The photographs add an awesomely unique dimension to the book and were possibly my favorite element.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is not a perfect book, but it is a good one and a promising start to the series. I’m excited to see where Riggs’ efforts will take him and what adventures he has in store for these delightfully peculiar children. I heartily recommend the book to book clubs, as it was a huge hit with mine. There are some good discussion questions online, too.

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