Written by: Ransom Riggs
Published by: Quirk Books
Release date: June 7th 2011
Genres: Paranormal, Sci-Fi, Young Adult
Buy: B&N, Amazon, Book Depository
Add on: Goodreads
As a kid, Jacob formed a special bond with his grandfather over his bizarre tales and photos of levitating girls and invisible boys. Now at 16, he is reeling from the old man's unexpected death. Then Jacob is given a mysterious letter that propels him on a journey to the remote Welsh island where his grandfather grew up. There, he finds the children from the photographs - alive and well - despite the islanders' assertion that all were killed decades ago. As Jacob begins to unravel more about his grandfather’s childhood, he suspects he is being trailed by a monster only he can see...
If there’s one thing I can say about Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, it’s that saying anything about it is really hard to do, unless you want to give away major spoilers! I looked high and low trying to find a good synopsis/blurb to include with this review: ALL the Goodreads synopses, and B&N’s webpage, Amazon.com, etc. While the blurb above is the best I found, it still doesn’t do a great job of explaining what the book is actually about. I guess that’s what happens when major plot points are also major spoilers – they have to be vague.
This is one reason why I never picked up Miss Peregrine until now. From all the blurbs I’d read, I was expecting a chilling horror story, with ghosts and creepy kids and terrifying paranormal stuff. I have to be in a very specific mood to pick up a book like that! But those expectations were so off the mark. If anything, this book reminds me of a mix of (call me crazy) The Darkest Minds, All Our Yesterdays, and some WWII historical fiction.
Though I have to be vague so I don’t give anything away, the plot was a real page-turner for me. Jacob grew up listening to his grandfather’s stories, which centered on the orphanage he grew up in, and these kids with crazy abilities. At first, Jacob loved believing in his grandfather’s stories, but as Jacob gets older, he tries to dismiss them as fairy tales. But when his grandfather dies in a violent “accident”, Jacob witnesses something he can’t explain, and everyone thinks he’s crazy. His psychiatrist thinks it’s a good idea for him to go to the Welsh island where his grandfather’s orphanage is located, to give Jacob a chance to see that it’s all quite ordinary. But Jacob goes there hoping for more… And oh boy, does he find it.
There are kids with special powers, timey-wimey shenanigans, and mysterious goings-on around every corner. I actually read this book in one sitting — which, even though it’s fairly short, is saying something. I was never distracted or looking for something else to occupy my time, which happens to me even with really good books. Something about Miss Peregrine grabbed my attention and held on until the last page.
In addition to the plot, I also loved the main character. I found Jacob super easy to connect with, personally. For the most part, he’s just an ordinary kid looking for answers about his grandfather, but he gets pulled into this crazy world and thrown into some pretty terrifying stuff. He struck me as brave, but not unrealistically so. He’s often terrified, but his tie to his grandfather gives him strength; and Miss Peregrine’s Home, and the children he meets there, give him something to fight for.
And speaking of the kids he meets there — I adored all the kids at the orphanage. I was expecting to be terrified by them, because, I mean, that cover! It’s creepy! Surely there must be creepy kids? But actually, the kids reminded me of the ones in The Darkest Minds: they have abilities that no one understands, so they’re shunned by society and forced to keep to themselves. The inhabitants of Miss Peregrine’s home grew up performing in circus acts, brushing off their abilities as “tricks”. These characters may have been minor ones, but they all felt unique. I loved their distinct personalities, and their dialog and banter.
Finally, I can’t not mention the photographs — the use of found photography throughout Miss Peregrine’s Home is so cool. It gives the book a very unique feel, different from anything else I’ve read — even though it roots the story very firmly in the past, it provides a sense of realism and a sort of timelessness. Many of the photos are super creepy at first glance, but they’re all given a history and background that make them come alive, and in most instances that background totally changed my view of the photo, like on the cover — I’ve been creeped out by that cover ever since I first laid eyes on it, because creepy kids are just not my thing. But now, I kind of want to smile when I see it. :)
I am both glad and annoyed that it took me so long to pick up this book. Glad, because the sequel comes out really soon, so there’s no wait. :D Annoyed, because I was really unclear on what the book was actually about, and I feel like, if I’d known, I would’ve picked it up so much sooner! It’s a really cool blend of paranormal and sci-fi, and the photographs add an element of realism that I loved. If you’re like me and it’s taken you too long to pick up this book, do it now!! Really, the timing couldn’t be better, since the sequel, Hollow City, comes out soon! In fact…
In anticipation of the upcoming release of Hollow City, I also wanted to let everyone know about Ransom Riggs’s upcoming event near Seattle! He’ll be hitting quite a few cities on his Hollow City tour, and on January 15th (next week!) he will be coming to my favorite local indie bookstore, University Book Store (the Mill Creek location). There’s no way I’m going to miss this event! If you’re in the area, click here for details.
Can’t make it to any of the Hollow City tour stops? UBS will also have signed books available to send out after the event! They ship anywhere in the US, so you can preorder one and they’ll send it to you when it’s available! Click here to preorder. (UBS does also ship internationally, but there is a higher shipping fee.)