Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (review copy) - A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of curious photographs.
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. From Goodreads.
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs is one of those books that I've always wanted to read, but never got round to. I think part of the problem for me is that I'd had a flick through the book, and I found some of the photos included kind of creepy, and they gave me the heebie-jeebies. I'm not generally into creepy, so I think that's why I steered clear. But then I saw the trailer for the movie, and thought it looked incredible! So I eagerly picked up the book and found it to be a really interesting story!
Jacob has grown up with his Grandpa Portman telling him stories about his time as a child at an orphanage, the children with strange powers who lived there, and the monsters he used to fight. Jacob loved hearing these stories as a child, but as he got older, he stopped believing in them. When his grandpa is fatally attacked, his final words to Jacob are a bungled message before dying in his arms: find the bird in the loop behind the old man's grave. Just after he dies, Jacob sees a terrible sight; a horrible creature with three tentacled tongues.
No-one believes what he saw, and instead think he's suffered a mental trauma due to his grandpa's death, proven by the horrific nightmares that visit Jacob sleep almost nightly. But when a letter is discovered that proves his grandpa really was at an orphanage off the coast of Wales, Jacob is desperate to go. Convinced by his psychologist that this could be good for him and help him get closure, Jacob's parents allow him to go, accompanied by his dad. But the orphanage is a crumbling ruin now, hit by a bomb in the second world war, and no-one is left alive who knew his grandpa. But there's evidence in a group of photographs that perhaps the stories his grandpa told him weren't just stories to entertain a child. And maybe the children who lived in the orphanage when his grandpa was young, might actually still be alive.
For me, the story can easily be broken down into three parts; Grandpa Portman's death and Jacob trying to work out the message he gave him while visiting the crumbling ruins of the orphanage, when Jacob meets the peculiar children, and the part that leads to the climax that I'm not going to spoil. I found the first part really intriguing, and I was completely gripped, what with all the clues and the message, and this ruin of a home. What did Grandpa Portman mean? Who lived at this house? Why was Jacob's grandpa there? It was such compelling reading, and I was desperate to know more!
But once Jacob works a few things out and is introduced to the peculiar children, the story kind of fizzled out. Jacob gets really interested in these kids - Emma who can create fireballs from her hands, Olive who can levitate, Millard who's invisible, and so on - and is content just to hang out with them. I can understand that he's not really had proper friends before, but the story just kind of stagnated here. There are these children, and they can do such fantastic things, but all they're doing is hanging out together. I think this would have been enough and really fascinating, learning about the children and all their different abilities, but with that absolutely gripping beginning, this middle just really didn't match up in intensity, nor was it as fascinating.
But then the story moves forward and things start to get interesting again! Suddenly Jacob remembers the unanswered questions he has about his grandpa, and he wants the truth. There are a number of really exciting, edge-of-your-seat moments; you think the story is bad right now, but then something else happens, and you're constantly wondering how it's going to end. There was an element to the story that I had already guessed, but a number that I hadn't twigged, and I found it pretty gripping again. But once the story had finished, I think in all, I was disappointed with the climax. In the moment it was exciting, trying to work out where the story will go, but once I knew, there was a disappointed "Oh" moment.
I found the romance of the story to be unbelievable, in the literal sense. I just didn't feel it, and I most definitely wasn't rooting for it. No, no, no. That was just too weird for me. And I'm kind of undecided as to how I feel about the ending, and where things stand for the next book. I'm just not sure how I feel. Do I want to read the next book? I think so. Am I in any rush to do so? Not particularly. I just felt, overall, the beginning was the best part of the story, and I don't know if that mysterious feel is going to continue. There's still a lot that needs to be figured about, but... I don't know. I know I found the last part exciting, but is the excitement going to continue and get better, or am I going to be disappointed? I really hope it's going to be exciting! I do think the movie is going to be brilliant, though, I can see the movie taking the good parts of this book and making it wow. Having read the book now, I know just from the trailer there are a few things that have been changed for the movie, and I think some might be good, so I'm excited to see it! I just wish I was as excited for the second book, Hollow City, as I am about the movie.
Thank you to Quirk Books for the review copy.
Published: 7th June 2011
Publisher: Quirk Books
Ransom Riggs' Website