Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children By Ransom Riggs
4.5 out of 5 stars
I confess I got this book solely on account of its cover. The creepy, black and white photograph of a (very children-of-the-corn looking) girl, standing stock still, staring directly at the camera, as if contemplating how best to eat your soul stood out like a corpse at a holiday party. And the title? How could I resist? I plucked the book from the shelves and brought it home. Then (as you already know, if you read my post from a few days ago), I got distracted (things were shiny), and the book languished on my shelf. Then low and behold, the book will soon be a movie–directed by Tim Burton no less–and I didn’t even want to look at the previews without reading the book first.
Miss Peregrine’s is a young adult novel, but one that transcends the genre and is enjoyable even for those of us who have left high school far in the past. The best books in the genre (think Harry Potter) feature young adult leading characters and high school age problems, but also rise above the mundane to speak to the problems of a bigger adult world. The less enjoyable books in the genre (sparkly vampires *cough*) leave you wondering if you might have enjoyed the book when you were thirteen, but fairly confident you were never that insipid (though, obviously, all teenagers are insipid by nature).
Miss Peregrine’s is one of the better books in the genre. Following the death of his grandfather, sixteen year old Jacob finds out that the fairy stories his grandfather told him as a child–about a magical island inhabited by children with paranormal abilities–may not have been just stories after all. Jacob sets off to learn the truth about the island with its mysterious house of peculiar children, all watched over by a bird who smokes a pipe.
The story is accompanied by photographs throughout the book, all black and white, with that particular creepy vintage vibe you get if you google search “scary Easter bunny”. The pictures are all quite striking, and serve to add to the atmosphere of the book. When you learn that all these photos are actual vintage photographs (most unaltered), collected by the author, it adds to the creepy vibe (what were those people doing?) rather than detracts from it. The book is largely an adventure story suffused with all the creepy atmosphere an ancient, fog-shrouded island off the coast of Wales can deliver. There are a few scary/creepy/violent moments, but these are generally around the level of the dementors in the Harry Potter novels (as, after all, this is still a YA novel, creepy atmosphere not withstanding).
In all, this is a great read, and a fine example of a YA novel not only accessible for adults, but enjoyable as well. The characters are interesting and generally well done, and the backdrops, first of Florida, and then the Island are fully realized and contribute well to the tone of the book. I enjoyed my time with Miss Peregrine’s and can’t wait to read the second book in the series.
I do, however, reserve judgement on the movie version.