Book Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children Needs to Up Its Peculiarity

miss peregrine
just another old photo…? PC: Mia
Book: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Author: Ransom Riggs
Genre: YA/ Fantasy

I finished Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children on a 14-hour flight to China. It felt like a blurry plane ride,- flying on a fantastic idea, but the execution of that idea was a bit disappointing, like plane food.

In short, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs needs to up its creep and peculiarity.

With the motion picture coming out in September, the hype around the novel surged even more, and even though I believe that the book does not live up to all the magic it promised, the attention and the heat around it is well-deserved. The story casts its spell by weaving together the elements of gothic fantasy, time travel and vintage found photos.

Jacob, our protagonist, sets out to exhume the secrets of his grandfather, in hope of getting over his death. His grandfather was a man of mysterious stories, and Jacob watched him die after he was attacked by what he claimed to be “monsters”. Jacob travels to a remote island and finds the bombed, ramshackle house that used to be Miss Peregrine’s home for peculiar children , where his grandfather once lived. As Jacob wades further into the mystery, it turns out that Miss Peregrine and her peculiar children are still alive. And Jacob may be one of them…

For me and many readers, what adds some quirk (and freak) to the story are the photos. Ransom Riggs boldly imagined these otherwise shady-looking photos to be snapshots of the peculiar children: a girl floating above the ground, a lanky boy lifting a boulder with one arm, a girl with a ball of fire between her hands… Reading the text and then turning the page to refer to the photos are immensely fun and gratifying.

However, the writing doesn’t fully match the aspiring idea of the book.

Riggs is a master at details and imagery,- probably why he is able to create such top-notch fantastic fiction. Yet in general the book is not very good at pacing, in terms of both language and plot.

First, plot. It took half the book for Jacob to find the peculiar children, so even though his lone adventure on the gloomy island builds up the suspense, it was wildly draining to trudge behind him the whole time, knowing that he’s going to find the peculiar children but having to wait. I’m aware that perhaps the author had two sequels in mind, but that doesn’t mean the first book doesn’t have to be self-contained and well planned-out.

Next, language. All the details really helped with world-building, and conjured up the grey, mysterious atmosphere, but when it comes to action parts, like the main character running through a bog fighting a monster, the language is not as thrilling as the plot aspires to be. I know choppy sentences almost plague YA novels these days, but I’d even suggest that Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children needs more short sentences to jazz up the tempo.

It’s a great, easy and beautiful read with a mind-blowing idea, but Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children needs to tone down the Gothic elusiveness just a tiny bit, and up its peculiarity.

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