BOOK REVIEW: Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children

21:22 Jazz Blackwell 1 Comments

Book Title: Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children
Series: Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children
Author: Ransom Riggs
Genre: Horror-fantasy, Young Adult
My Rating: 5/5

Okay, so I’ll hold my hands up and admit that, as an avid fan of the wonderful Mr Tim Burton, I bought this book when I read that he was the director of the film adaptation that is to be released in 2016. I don’t know about you but I just can’t watch a film without having read the book first – mainly because I get some kind of sick enjoyment from comparing the adaptation to the novel and picking out inconsistencies and plot holes. Yeah – I’m that person.

Anyway, I digress. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is the debut novel and first in a trilogy by Maryland-born Ransom Riggs. Riggs is a taker and collector of vernacular photographs, often strange and even somewhat frightening in nature, and many of these are featured throughout the novel.

The story is told through the eyes of Jacob Portman, a lonely teenage boy who works (despite his best efforts to get fired) at his local branch of Smart Aid, a drug store chain owned by his uncle. Jacob has grown up listening to his Polish grandfather Abe’s fantastical stories of a Welsh home for children with unique, supernatural powers and hollowgasts - horrific, skeletal, tentacle-tongued monsters, which Abe claims have stalked him for his entire life. Despite being provided with photographic evidence of the existence of these children, as Jacob grows he believes less and less in his Abe’s tales, eventually coming to realise that his grandfather was sent to a Welsh children’s home to avoid persecution as a Jew in 1930s Poland. Jacob’s father informs him that the ‘monsters’ his grandfather speaks of are the Nazis who murdered his parents and siblings, the stories nothing more than a coping mechanism, the photographs poorly doctored in order to appear more impressive. With age, Abe’s paranoia about the ‘monsters’ stalking him becomes more and more intense, a sign that he is succumbing to dementia. Or so Jacob believes.

Following a concerning phone call, in which Abe states the monsters have found him and demands Jacob tell him where the key to his gun cabinet is, Jake goes with his best and only friend Ricky to ensure that his grandfather has taken his medication for the day. He finds the house empty but disturbingly turned over, as if it has suffered some kind of raid. A search of the woods behind the house reveals Abe close to death, appearing as if he has been mauled by a dog or similar creature. He leaves Jacob with a cryptic message before passing away in his grandson’s arms, at which point Jake spots a horrifying creature similar to the monsters in the stories he was told in childhood lurking in the shadows nearby. He screams and Ricky, unable to see the monster, shoots blindly at it, causing it to retreat. Several rounds of therapy leave Jake believing that he conjured the monster up in a state of shock, and that the best way to find closure is to visit the tiny Welsh island where Abe lived in the children’s home. Jake’s father – an avid bird watcher and several-times-failed writer – agrees to take him, as it will allow him to carry out research for his latest project. What Jake finds leaves him convinced that his grandfather was not as crazy as he once believed.

Honestly? When I first bought and researched this book, I was kind of on the fence about how I anticipated liking it. I liked that it was a darker fantasy novel, this being the genre I tend to reach for over any other. But, in all honesty, I'm generally not the biggest fan of horror marketed specifically to young adults -I'm a die-hard Stephen King and Dean Koontz kinda gal. I'm always middle-of-the-road on how young adult fiction and horror are going mesh.

I’m happy to announce that the way Ransom Riggs does it, the two work together beautifully. Riggs manages to maintain an eerie and relatively disconcerting undertone to the narrative throughout the novel, even during the relatively action-packed climax (which, by the way, contains a huge plot twist that will have you audibly gasping). His characters are well-written and three-dimensional, especially protagonist Jake who is sufficiently badass to be a fantasy novel hero, at the same time as being a kindred spirit and role model for outcast teens everywhere. Despite there being something of a romantic sub-plot for Jake, it doesn’t detract from the main story arc of the novel, something that drives me crazy in modern YA fiction. In fact, if anything Jake’s love-life enhances the main plot. The story is, at times, wonderfully humorous, at others, heart-wrenchingly sad and at others almost frustratingly suspenseful. There are red herrings and plot twists aplenty, action and mystery galore (you want narrative hooks? It's got twenty! Okay, I'll stop.) This ensures that there is never a dull moment throughout the story. It ends on a cliff-hanger, one that leads smoothly into the first sequel Hollow City, which I have just begun reading and you can expect a review for sometime in the near future.

The novel has an overall message that no matter how strange – how peculiar – you might be, no matter how many people want to tear you down and see you suffer, you are not alone and there are other people like you. You just need to know where to find them.

Please note that this book contains mild language, moderate violence and some themes, scenes and photographs that some readers may find disturbing. If you are easily upset or frightened, please approach this novel with caution.

Keep Reading,
Jazz x

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1 comment:

  1. Just wanted to let you know that I've followed your blog :) after this great review I'm looking forward to more posts!

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