This book is: creative and haunting.
Other elements: peculiarity, mental health, family dynamics, sheep murderers, reality vs fantasy.
Read it: if you like the idea of fantasy and the real world colliding.
Overall rating: 6.5/10
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children revolves around a teenage boy named Jacob, who opens the novel by acting like an entitled brat in a drug store that his family owns. After Jacob’s his grandfather, a frequent teller of fanciful stories, dies in a suspicious way, Jacob starts to wonder if his grandfather’s fairy tales might have actually be more truth than fiction. This lands him swiftly in psychiatric care, but he doesn’t stop his subtle investigation into his grandfather’s life. He can’t stop thinking about a collection of photos his grandfather used to show him when he was young: very old photos of children that appear to have supernatural abilities. They’re the kind of photo that used to accompany old time advertisements for sideshow freaks, that kind of thing. Jacob always thought the photos were fake, but the more he investigates, the more he suspects there’s something real behind all of it. He begins to discover that not only is he right, but that he’s actually a part of it all.
I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen. The first of these came as a terrible shock and, like anything that changes you forever, split my life into halves: before and after. – Page 8
I still think this book has one of the best titles and covers I’ve ever seen. And the cover photograph (as well as the book itself) has a great story behind it. The author, Ransom Riggs, collected old photographs – photographs like the ones Jacob’s grandfather had, of people demonstrating unusual talents: floating girls, invisible boys; the sort of curiosity photos often made with costumes and double exposure. Riggs says in the Author’s Note that he’d originally planned to write a picture book, but that this story had evolved around the photos instead. I’m glad it did – I love that there’s a kernel of fact at the heart at this story, and I like thinking of the people in the photos and what they would think of the fact they their photos are inspiring creative work in future generations.
My main complaint I never really managed to like the main character. He wasn’t horrible, but he lacked insight and was generally non-fascinating. I was also unimpressed at the ease with which he decided to abandon his family. I found myself wishing I could hear Jacob’s grandfather’s story instead; he sounds like a more interesting guy. I liked the peripheral characters so much that I still enjoyed reading it, but I couldn’t help but feel that the real meat of the story was happening out of sight.
This is a weird thing to say about a book that I liked, but I was unhappy when I reached the end of this book and realized the author is planning to do a series. I thought the strength of the novel was in the quiet, fascinating mystery of the peculiar children and their world. I was disappointed to realize that they were going to leave their home and venture forth into the world to become entirely a known quantity. I think I would have preferred if the protagonist had gone home and let the little mystery live on. But that sort of disregards the entire plot.
Maybe I just felt so attached to the peculiar children that I’m upset that they have to leave their sanctuary and enter the normal world. Or maybe I’ve just read a lot of unfinished series lately and I’m tired of waiting for an ending.
Hopefully my instinct is wrong and the sequel will be unexpectedly great. Has anyone out there read this and felt the same way?