Monday, 16 January 2012

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

This book has been on my radar since long before it was published. The name, the cover, the concept – it all appealed to me. Though rather impatient to read it, for financial reasons I chose to wait until the paperback release. Of course, good monetary intentions did not go a long way in this case and I ended up with a hardback copy when the book was chosen as a book of the month.

I’m not entirely sure what I expected of the story as I came to open it, but having flicked through the pages at the store a couple of times and scanned the photos, I guess that I was almost expecting a ghost story. Not quite.

Title: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Author: Ransom Riggs
Publisher: Quirk Publishing
Binding: small hardback
Pages: 348
Chapters: 11 - one significantly longer than all the others
Font: medium, spaced
PoV: 1st person.
Tense: Past tense.

Story:  A mysterious island.

An abandoned orphanage.

A strange collection of very curious photographs.

It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, 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)

Thoughts and impressions: The story opened with a book that did not fail to snag me. Jacob, the narrator, mentions that his life has two halves: Before and After, and they, as with all important events in his life, are linked to his grandpa Portman. When Jacob repeats the tales he was told in his childhood, I was gone - hook, line and sinker. I loved the way these tall tales were the truth when he was a child but justified by more mundane explanations (if you can call the Nazis mundane) as he grew older.

I lost interest a bit for the short while that Jacob was going through counselling but then I was drawn straight back into the fold as soon as he arrived in Britain. I've seen plenty of criticism levelled towards the story that it’s slow and boring. In some respects I can see where these people are coming from but at the same time, I think that the slower pace was quite important for the author to get all his building blocks in place. So yes, it was slow burning, but the ending had my adrenaline pumping!

Throughout the story there were various points where another idea would slip into place and I would come to understand both Jacob and grandpa Portman a bit better. There were even moments when it was like a light bulb going off in my head! The whole story was a complex riddle prompted by grandpa Portman's last words and even towards the very end there are still bits that he's just coming to understand.

Though the concept is far from new, the way it was treated was very interesting. This is one of the more plausible ideas for time travel that I've ever read. I actually had a moment when I wondered whether it was going to turn out that Jacob was his own grandfather, but I think my brain must have dropped out for that thought to filter through because grandpa Portman spoke English with a Polish accent his whole life and Jacob has an American accent, so they couldn't possibly be one and the same unless Jacob changed his name and then chose to affect a fake accent for the rest of his life!

 The incorporation of photos was a very original touch, though. The only problem with this was that it was too dependent on the photos from time to time and as such the story was twisted in ways that weren't always necessary just to make it come back to the photos in question. In fact, a lot of the time I found that I would just glance at the photos and then move on with the story. I was far more interested in the story itself than I was in the photos that supported it.

Unfortunately, a lot of the time the children didn't really have particularly strong personalities. I'd often find myself reading a name and trying to associate it with which child that was and which ability they had.  I would have liked to have not come face to face with that issue. Yes, the abilities were rather X-Men-ish, but they were fun.

The one thing that really didn't sit too comfortably with me was the romance. It is established that Emma has been pining after Jacob's grandfather, who left her and the other children to live his own life, and then suddenly there's a romance blossoming between her and Jacob? As Jacob says himself, this girl is his grandpa's ex and it was a bit ick. It might have been better to wait until the next book for that! As it was, it felt almost like Jacob just replaced Abraham for her.

Despite this, I still enjoyed the story and I'm looking forward to seeing where there adventures will take them from here.

Also: it appears that the author had a small problem with his British vernacular! At one point, two teens from the island ask Jacob whether he's "taking a piss" and then clarify that they want to know whether he was joking. No, in British English, "taking a piss" means just that - urinating. Taking THE piss, however, is making fun of somebody / something. I suppose this mistake may have come from the way we pronounce it. In my particular dialect, the phrase sounds more like "teckint piss".

Style: It drew me in. Very enjoyable.

Final verdict: There were a few problems, some bits that could have been ironed out better and parts of the plot that just didn't work for me, but overall, a very good story! 4 stars

Extra notes: Language didn’t stand out. No sex. Appropriate for young adult readers.

1 comment:

  1. I have to get my hands on this one. It sounds so good. Great review.


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