Tyler's Reviews > Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
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M 50x66
's review
Dec 11, 2011

liked it


I'm very very let down. I haven't been this disappointed in a while.

First thing's first; this is one of those books that I felt was meant for me. I walked into the bookstore and there it was, of all the hundreds of books there, this stuck out. So I took a look, seeing the very excellent cover, taking a look at the plot description, and then taking a look at the back that showed a few photographs. I thought, "Well shit, this looks like some kind of Superhero meets Harmony Korine/Werner Herzog thing." I love both Korine and Herzog, and love Superheroes so I was in. Match made in heaven.

My first criticism has nothing to do with the book and doesn't detract from the rating, but I must say it: fuck the marketing for this. Fuck the description because it's very misleading. It would have been okay had they not written, "But could they be dangerous?" It was purposefully misleading and setting people up for disappointment, if they wouldn't have put that on there it still would have sounded really interesting. "Jacob meets a bunch of weird as shit kids, and here are photographs of these kids." Sold.

Now, like I said, I'm not going to hate on the book for the marketing campaign. I pride myself on being able to adapt to what books (or movies, whatever) offer in the middle of things like this and realize that marketing campaigns are crap. I'm throwing it out there because people have hated on it for this very reason. The truth is, the average person has a very strict set of desires and they go into things expecting something and when it's different then they can't deal with it.

So, the book itself.

I have to mention the photographs. They're incredible -- that they're real makes it neat in its own way. I admire this aspect of the book tremendously, and looked forward to every single photograph. They ended up being interesting and sometimes downright creepy. They added to the atmosphere of the book.

The writing is solid, good and not overly challenging. I like this kind of thing. My favourite author being Kurt Vonnegut, I generally prefer a style that doesn't bog itself down with being in love with dictionaries. If an author has a vast vocabulary, that's fine, but sometimes it detracts from the experience because it ruins the flow and makes it needlessly challenging (unless that's the point). Smart choice to not go down that road here because very few authors pull it off like they want. The metaphors are fine, the writing is easy to follow but just descriptive enough when it needs to be. It does cheapen out a bit sometimes though because it does have the photographs to fall back on -- but it's really not a big deal. The photos are used more as an aid more often than not.

A couple days ago I literally said to a friend that even though I haven't followed new releases this year and only read a handful of books from 2011, that this is the book of the year. I thought it was so good. I was about halfway through, and was loving it. It was building suspense and mystery, and I couldn't help but want to know what was going to happen. I don't even hate Jacob -- I am okay with unlikable characters as long as they're written well. Jacob is written fine enough. I wouldn't say I cared for him, as obviously he's a spoiled rotten brat. But he's young, whatever. He did have an attachment to his grandfather so that added to it.

Then after I said I really loved this, I started plowing through it because I haven't read as much lately as I should. I sat down and finished the remaining 200 or so pages in a short period of time (for me, as I don't read real fast). It got worse. Not enough to sink it, by any means, but it did flop a bit, going from a solid 4 or 4.5 to the 3 I'm giving it.

Flip-flopping between genres is fine; this is a fantasy, horror, YA novel. That's fine with me. I'm fine with the direction the author went, but it became way too cookie-cutter with a forced love story and very little character development. Are you meant to feel for these peculiars because physically they are kids? They get introduced as freaks with powers, and the hole loop thing leads to an interesting dynamic -- is the Bird a good person or bad for what she's doing to these kids? But the book doesn't really explore that with any real depth and resorts to just throwing in a conflict with other freaks. I don't know, it was just hard to care. Being a YA novel doesn't let you get away with avoiding tackling the issue in a meaningful way... take a book like The Book Thief by Markus Zusak for example: funny, dark, a Nazi backdrop, but still amazing and with enough depth to make you feel about the characters. Also a longer book, but I don't think anybody would complain if a book is longer if it gets better, would they?

And what the hell is up with every author wanting to use Nazis as a backdrop for their stories? I get that they're recognizable, but in a book this odd and even adventurous, you would expect the author to maybe go down a path less traveled. I don't know, maybe I'm being too hard on it, but it's so overdone. Truthfully, the way the story went, it's not as generic by any means, but he still went down that road.

It really comes down to the fact that this book could have been a hell of a lot more. Weird is fine -- great even -- but have something else behind it. I was entertained by this, despite the shaky last half, and it definitely should be praised for going balls-to-the-wall in some ways (though not so much in others). Check it out, don't be fooled by the book jacket -- it looks like a horror novel and it has characteristics of that but it never even comes close to shit-your-pants scary. Instead, it is a fantasy novel with light horror elements and an original, mind-grabbing concept that never reaches the heights it deserves to.

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