Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
A mysterious island.
An abandoned orphanage.
A strange collection of very curious photographs.
I’ve been seeing this book around. Blog posts, reviews. This and that, here and there. While trolling deals on Amazon, I wondered if this would be a good book to buy my niece for Christmas. Since I was unsure, I figured I’d give it a read.
The first third of the book intrigued me. After the death of his grandfather, Jake is left searching for the truth about his grandfather’s flight from Poland during WWII and the wild fairy tales that Jake was told as a kid. Were monsters just his grandfather’s replacements for the Nazis? How literal are the stories of the ever-sunny orphanage? What is the bird in the loop? I could see some interesting possibilities and, considering the dark tone of the first third of the book, I hoped that the story would continue down that path.
Unfortunately, this book can be carved into thirds, likewise: interesting potential, utterly predictable, shoe-horned conclusion that will lead to sequels.
Spoilers, perhaps, follow.
If you think about the title, Miss Peregin’s Home for Peculiar Children, you will find that it bears a striking resemblance to a phrase from another genre. In the middle third of this book we are treated to the expected hi-jinx when Jake meets the peculiar children. There’s Budding Romance, and the wheels of Impending Doom are set in motion. Of course in the last third, things must go wrong. My main contention is that the bad guys, wraith and hollows, are vaguely fleshed out in a way that lends itself to ease of if-needed revision in potential sequels. Add to that the concluding action is unnecessarily cinematic. If we’re dealing with fantastic elements in a real setting, it’s important to be *real* in reality. Pistols have an effective range. Large objects displace water. I’m just sayin’.
Aside from the story potential shown in the first portion of the novel, the best thing about Miss Peregrin’s is its main character. Yes, Jake is the semi-cliched “not special” kid that is integral, but that’s a pretty basic trope of the genre. Rigg’s gives Jake enough vulnerability that he’s not arrogant, but enough teenage devil-may-care that he’s not a putz. Alas, he’s not compelling enough to get me to read any potential sequels.