Blair's Reviews > Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
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's review
Dec 14, 2011

it was ok
bookshelves: fantasy, kids-and-young-adult, past-and-present, read-on-kindle, 2011-release, first-novels
Read from December 14 to 15, 2011

I rarely read YA fiction - not out of snobbery, not because I think there's anything wrong with adults reading YA, but simply because it's always proved very difficult for me to find any books in the genre that hold my interest past a few pages. I've tried reading several this year, but had to abandon them all because I found them either dull, silly or unengaging. I wasn't sure whether to bother with this, even though there's been a certain buzz about it and the premise looked very interesting. But the first few pages grabbed my attention, and I decided I would give it a chance.

Jacob Portman is an American teenager, isolated and bored, drifting through life with few ambitions and even fewer friends. Since childhood he has been very close to his grandfather, who told endless exciting and far-fetched tales about his own youth which Jacob has never forgotten. The stories - about Abraham Portman's escape from horrifying 'monsters' to a children's home full of refugees with amazing powers - have been explained away in intervening years as an allegory for the refugees' survival of WWII. The photographs that accompanied them, supposedly showing the extraordinary abilities of these 'peculiar' children (such as the levitating girl pictured on the cover), Jacob now regards as poorly doctored fakes. However, when his beloved grandfather dies in strange circumstances - leaving behind a letter from his old headmistress, Miss Peregrine, and a series of intriguing clues - Jacob begins to suspect there could have been something more to those odd stories after all. He persuades his father to take a birdwatching trip to the Welsh island where the children's home is situated, and sets out to discover the truth.

I was well and truly sucked in by the beginning of the book, and initially I thought it would be a great light read that would fit perfectly into my busy schedule at the moment: easy to read, fast-moving and nicely spooky. The set-up is well-crafted - lonely Jacob is a sympathetic character, the mystery of his grandfather's past is tantalising, and the island itself, while contrived, is a suitably atmospheric setting for the rest of the action. The trouble begins about a third of the way in: after Jacob has solved the mystery of the children's home (which doesn't appear to surprise him anywhere near as much as it should), the book slumps into a very formulaic series of events in which everything seems to happen way too easily. The tension collapses and the way Jacob (view spoiler) feels like a missed opportunity - there could have been so much more excitement and danger here. The conceit of the peculiar children's abilities and the war with their nemeses is unoriginal, being a very close copy of X-Men: First Class with the inevitable dash of Harry Potter (and... (view spoiler))

The author's rendering of different types of speech occasionally tips over into parody - both in the over-egged modern British slang of the Welsh islanders, and the comically 'old-fashioned' language used by Miss Peregrine and the children. Jacob's voice is uneven - at times he sounds exactly like an insecure and occasionally crude teenage boy, but at other points there are bursts of almost literary description that just don't seem to fit in with his narrative. I got the feeling Riggs wanted to instill this book with crossover appeal so adult readers would be attracted to it too, with mixed results. There are mistakes (including spelling errors), plot holes and dei ex machina (??) all over the place. The main issue for me was the question of whether (view spoiler).

Unsurprisingly, my conclusion about this book is that I'd have enjoyed it much more 15 years ago. It really is like something I would have picked off the library shelf (I have fond memories of my local library's then-tiny YA section) when I was younger, which is perhaps why I was so drawn to it in the first place. The build-up of tension and fantastical plot failed to excite or spook me in the way I wanted, whereas a younger reader would probably find the creepy photos and time-loop scenario thrilling. I also thought this was a self-contained story and didn't realise it would be so obviously set up for a sequel at the end, without anything much in the way of resolution; that was a little irritating. Not a complete waste of time, but I wouldn't recommend this to adult readers at all.
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Reading Progress

64.0% "This reads like the kids'/YA book it is, but it's very readable nevertheless."

Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by Amy (new) - added it

Amy Want to read this and have heard such mixed reviews. Eager to see what you think!

P.S. I'm just starting The House at Midnight. Excited!

Blair I found the beginning of the book really exciting, but I'm about a third of the way through now and getting a bit bored because it's really pretty childish. Going to stick with it though, and hope it picks up again. Hope you enjoy The House at Midnight as much as I did!

message 3: by Amy (new) - added it

Amy So far I quite like The House at Midnight but I don't love it yet!

message 4: by Barry (new)

Barry It is YA isn't it? Thats why I've avoided it so far anyway, me and YA don't see eye-to-eye, although I think I am going to crack under the pressure from loads of friends and read The Hunger Games soon, not looking forward to it!

Blair Yeah, I don't usually like YA either; I'd like to enjoy it more, but I just don't. This has a pretty good premise and there are some interesting bits but I somehow suspect it's not going to be an ultimately satisfying book.

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