Author: Ransom Riggs
Genre: Fantasy YA
First Published: 2011
Page Count: 348
Film/ TV Adaptation: Yes*
Rating: 3/5 Stars
Note: Book 1 of the Miss Peregrine series
Riggs’ debut novel is a unique reading experience that is not to be missed!
*Vintage photographs add character *Fast paced story with bits of humor, horror, and mystery
*Some of the pictures seemed forced into the story *Writing style left something to be desired
“I used to dream about escaping my ordinary life, but my life was never ordinary. I had simply failed to notice how extraordinary it was.” When tragedy strikes the family of sixteen year old Jacob, his world is turned upside down. Drawn to an isolated island in Wales, Jacob discovers the decrepit orphanage his grandfather had spent his childhood in during World War II in an attempt to escape Nazi persecution. However, the deeper Jacob digs, the more he learns about the disturbing past of the orphanage and who it’s inhabitants were. Not all is as it seems, and danger still lingers decades after his grandfather’s stay in this strange childhood home.
The cover alone gives the reader an idea of what a unique reading experience is at their fingertips with Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Sprinkled throughout the novel are creepy, quirky, or just plain strange vintage photos that Riggs has collected to help illustrate the story. Without a doubt, the photos add plenty of character to an already interesting story. It is fascinating to see how the author chose to make the pictures work with the story, but it’s even more fascinating to study these real life photos and wonder what their real story is.
However, the characters, setting, and plot are so engaging that the book could have gone without the photos and still have been a good read; it’s just a really nice bonus! The story is fast paced and the author creates a mysterious and haunting world that makes you want to keep reading to see what’s through that muddy bog, or lurking in that run down shack.
Although I enjoyed the story, the author’s writing style did leave something to be desired. At some points the writing seemed very simple which fit the story fine but at other points it felt as if the author was trying to find elaborate synonyms for words just to make everything sound more sophisticated. I also found that the way events happened in the book could have been explained in a different manner that would have made the story flow better. At one point, without giving too much away, let’s just say the main character manages to accept a cup of water even though his hands are restrictively bound. Peculiar indeed…..Some of those oversights bugged me a bit but not enough to put me completely off the story. I also felt that some of the pictures were sort of thrown into the book just to say “look, more pictures!” when it didn’t really seem to add anything to the plot the way the character portraits did. But even if I found a couple of the pictures unneccessary, they were still beautiful pieces of art themselves.
If anything, read this story because the reading experience will go beyond what you’re used to. And what’s even better is that the story doesn’t use the photos as a crutch to make it a novel read. There is actually an exciting adventure between these pages. Hopefully Riggs will be able to keep the same balance between good writing and photo art in the sequel. I’m looking forward to seeing what other queer photos the author will unearth for the readers.
*Film Adaptations: (Starring Eva Green 2016)