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Day One Hundred & Twenty-Three

02 May

Back to basics, kiddies. Today, I’m reviewing a book:

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs.

First, the book jacket description:

“A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. 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 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.

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.”

The first thing that struck me about the book was the almost four-dozen pictures that have been seamlessly distributed throughout the story. Riggs has done more than wrapped his story around random images – the images are part of the story, a vital component in its telling. Without them, the story would be compelling, even good, but would feel a bit flat.

The second thing that struck me was the characterizations. Not just the main characters, but the secondary ones feel as if they are people you could know, or have known. It would be very easy to make them stereotypes as told from a sixteen-year-old boy’s perspective, but Riggs takes the time to breathe life into them, and in doing so gives Jacob more credibility.

There are many layers to this story. For pure entertainment, it’s thrilling and funny with a quick pace that will keep you turning the pages. If you want to look beyond that, you’ll find questions and ideas presented that make you think long after you’ve set the book aside.

I quite enjoy the way Riggs wraps up the story while leaving it open-ended. He brings the story to a close, but gives himself room to write the next part. The reader doesn’t feel cheated, and he can continue the story if there is more story to tell.

The only complaint I have is… There are certain points where the storytelling feels rushed. I don’t mean the moments of tension or the speed of the action. I mean certain things, important points, feel like they were skimmed over, almost as if he was just trying to get to the next part. It only happens a few times (that I noticed) and it doesn’t take you out of the story so much as make specific things feel a bit empty.

I give Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children 4.5 photographs out of 5. I really enjoyed this book. The idea of weaving pictures into storytelling intrigues me, and the thought of finding pictures as unique and astounding as the ones used in this story make me want to trek to my local antiques store. Riggs has done something brilliant here, and I look forward to seeing more from him.

{Spoilery Bits! Do Not Read Further Unless You’ve Read The Book Or Don’t Mind Being Spoiled! Avert Your Eyes And Scroll Down!}

One of the most clever and most irritating things in this book is when Jacob goes through the cairn for the first time. I love that Riggs stays true to his character and lets Jacob figure things out on his own, but… From the moment he stepped out into the bright sunny day, I thought “He’s traveled in time.” I knew the answer long before the character did. Usually that doesn’t bother me but here it really annoyed me. I’m glad he figured it out the way he did, especially because of the introduction to Emma, but I still found it irritating. I guess I’ve seen more Doctor Who than Jacob has.

The thing that irks me the most is Jacob’s parents. We don’t get a ton of information about them, but are able to deduce that things aren’t quite as perfect as they want everyone to think. His father bothers me the most. A stack of unfinished manuscripts I can relate to, but how else did he spend his time? What did he do before he married into money? I’m not belittling ornithology, but his dad seems remarkably dull. And once they’re on the island he becomes a drunk? I know in order for the narrative to work, the parents have to be out of the way, but making him a boozer seems like a bit of a cop-out. Sure, it adds to the idea that Jacob has nothing to go back to, but I thought it was kind of sad.

If I was a teenager reading this, I would totally agree with Jacob – his dad is too busy moping about his lack of a career and crying into his drink to miss him, he has one pseudo-friend who won’t care whether he comes back or not, and his family isn’t the most caring or close-knit bunch. From that perspective, his decision to stay with the peculiar children makes sense.

But from an adult’s perspective, his excuses are flimsy at best. What’s worse, I can see where he could come to regret his decision to stay. Jacob has the shortsightedness of a teenage boy, and the brashness to jump into this adventure without first weighing the consequences.

All that said, I very much look forward to the next part of this story.

{Spoilery bits over!}

You can find out more about Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and Ransom Riggs at his website, ransomriggs.com and on Twitter. Be sure to check out some of his other projects including a new book titled Talking Pictures, a collection of pictures like those used in Miss P that he has found over the years. (Seriously, click that link and watch the video at the bottom of the page. It’s amazing.)

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1 Comment

Posted by on May 2, 2012 in Reviews

 

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One response to “Day One Hundred & Twenty-Three

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