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Ransom Riggs – Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

July 15, 2011

LibraryThing Early Reviewers88. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (2011)

Length: 352 pages
Genre: Young Adult, mixed with Fantasy/Horror, with a splash of Historical Fiction in there too.

Started: 02 July 2011
Finished: 03 July 2011

Where did it come from? From LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program.
Why do I have it? I originally heard about Ransom Riggs’s work – although it was in regards to this video, not the Miss Peregrine’s book specifically – from one of John Green’s vlogs.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 16 June 2011.

All photos are lies,
but Grandpa’s old strange pictures
might just tell the truth.

Summary: When Jacob was little, his grandfather would always tell him stories. Stories about the mysterious house in which he grew up, a house on an island in Wales, a house that was full of children with strange powers – a boy who was immensely strong, a girl with a second mouth in the back of her head, an invisible boy, a girl whose feet never touched the ground – children who are pictured in a series of incredible photographs, children who were hiding at this house because it was the only place where they could be safe from the monsters. As Jacob grew up, he dismissed his grandfather’s photographs as trickery and his stories as mere fairy tales, but when he finds his grandfather dead in the woods behind his Florida home – and sees something impossible and monstrous fleeing the scene – he begins to wonder. His parents and his therapist think that he’s suffered a mental break, but he convinces them to let him travel to Wales, to hopefully find out the truth beyond his grandfather’s cryptic last words once and for all. But what Jacob finds on Cairnholm Island makes him wonder if his grandfather might not have been making up his stories after all… but if that’s the case, then Jacob may have just put himself in mortal danger.

Review: Saying that something is a “multimedia experience” sounds like cheeseball mid-’90s marketing copy, but in the case of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, I really think it might be true. The gorgeously produced book is peppered with vintage photographs, collected from estate sales and flea markets, with each photograph showing something bizarre, unnerving, or just a little off. Individually, it’s easy to look at any one photograph and say “Oh, that’s double exposure / a trick of the lighting / etc.” However, the absolute best part about this book is how everything fits together into a whole that’s greater than the sum of the parts. The photos complement and amplify the atmosphere of the story, and the story weaves itself around the photos that they stop feeling like disparate found objects, and more like interconnected pieces from a life, enough to make you stop and think “Well, what if….?”

I don’t know whether the photographs inspired the story, or if the story dictated which photos to use (probably some of each), but the overall effect is not like anything I’ve ever come across before. The story is funny and poignant by turns, and effectively creepy throughout, enough to make me wish I’d read it on a foggy October evening. It’s not just the bad guys that are creepy, either… even the good guys have a disconcerting, haunting air about them; especially so compared to Jacob, whose perspective and narration style is sufficiently modern to make it a sharp counterpoint to some of the more fantastical things he encounters. Suffice it to say, this book gave me the shivers more than once.

The ending, while it was consistent with the rest of the story, and a good resting place, didn’t manage to tie up all of the threads of the book, and is rather obviously providing set-up for a sequel. On the one hand, that kind of open-endedness usually bothers me, but if Riggs’s next book is anything near as fascinating as I found this one, the unresolved nature of this ending will be well-earned. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Definitely recommended for fans of modern YA novels, especially those with a bit of a fantastical twist to them; anyone who appreciates a good haunted house story; and especially anyone with an interest in photography and the power of images. This is definitely a print-only story, though… I’m not usually one to dissuade people from audiobooks, but the photographs are such an integral part of the story that it would be a shame to miss them.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Links: Watch the Book Trailer:

Other Reviews: Capricious Reader, Charlotte’s Library, Good Books and Good Wine, Jenn’s Bookshelves, Stainless Steel Droppings, and more at the Book Blog Search Engine.
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen.

© 2011 Fyrefly’s Book Blog. All Rights Reserved. If you’re reading this on a site other than Fyrefly’s Book Blog or its RSS feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is being used without permission.

28 Comments leave one →
  1. July 15, 2011 7:44 am

    Oh, I had seen that video before! Yet somehow I failed to put two and two together and realise who the author of the book was. I confess I’ve been on the fence about this one – most people seem to love it and yet it sounded like it could be a little too gimmicky for my taste. But I think you’ve convinced me.

    • July 19, 2011 2:35 pm

      Nymeth – I didn’t put two and two together either, until I was hunting down the book trailer, saw the other video, and was like “Hmmmm, I know I’ve seen this before….”

      And it is gimmicky, sure. But it’s a gimmick that works, so I was willing to go with it. Hope you like it!

  2. July 15, 2011 8:02 am

    Nymeth: The beauty of this experience is certainly the photographs, but Riggs’ story is strong enough that, with a few tweaks, it would actually be a really good story without the photos. With them it is something extra special though.

    I’m glad you enjoyed the book. I’m glad I read it when I did, but like you there is also a part of me that wishes this had been a fall read. The spooky atmosphere of parts of the book are perfectly suited to a cool autumn night.

    This is definitely a book to read the ‘old fashioned way’, which is certainly no great sacrifice as the book itself is an object of beauty.

    • July 19, 2011 2:37 pm

      Carl – Agreed! Reading about creepy old houses in foggy Wales is not quite as atmospheric on a sunny, 90˚ July day.

  3. July 15, 2011 10:38 am

    My library bought this for me, so I am just waiting my turn. :)

    • July 19, 2011 2:37 pm

      Kailana – Here’s hoping everyone ahead of you is a fast reader!

  4. July 15, 2011 12:58 pm

    I first saw this one on Carl’s blog and, like Kailana, I am waiting to receive this from my library. I want to get my hands on it now, but maybe I should wait ’til Fall:)

    • July 19, 2011 2:38 pm

      Gavin – Ooooh, tough call! It’s good enough to say read it now, but it would also be SO perfect for October….

  5. July 15, 2011 2:49 pm

    When I first saw this book, I didn’t think it was for me, but I’ve read so many great reviews, I really want to give it a try.

    • July 19, 2011 2:38 pm

      Kathy – I hope it goes well! Certainly worth a shot, in any case.

  6. July 16, 2011 9:51 am

    This just sounds so cool. It’s still just on order at my library (grr), and I’m almost considering just emailing the publisher to ask for a review copy, because I don’t want to wait. I’ve turned into such an impatient person!

    • July 19, 2011 2:39 pm

      Jenny – Well, however you manage to lay hands on a copy, I hope you love it! It seems like it should be up your alley…

  7. July 16, 2011 10:26 am

    I don’t read a lot of YA, but this book catches my eye each time I see it. I am going to give it a try. I’m hoping my library will carry it.

    • July 19, 2011 2:40 pm

      LitHouse – Maybe this’ll be the book that gets you sucked into the wonderful world of YA lit… Here’s hoping, anyways!

  8. July 16, 2011 3:32 pm

    I have this on hold & am sooo looking forward to it.

  9. July 16, 2011 7:45 pm

    I’m SO looking forward to this! I’ve requested it from my library, but I’m still #32 on the list. Sigh. I need everyone in front of me to read quicker!

    • July 19, 2011 2:41 pm

      Memory – That’s bad for you, but pretty cool that that many people want to be reading this book! I’ll keep my fingers crossed for speed-readers. :)

  10. July 18, 2011 7:51 pm

    I’m intrigued, I’ve just finished Alain de Botton’s book Architecture of Happiness (philosophy & pictures) and am reading a YA time travel novel set in Wales……..this sounds like a perfect fit. It’ll make a theme. Too bad it’s only chilly for July in CA and not actually wintertime.

    • July 19, 2011 2:42 pm

      Carrie – I love when I get accidental themes in my reading! And I think a chilly, foggy morning would work just fine. :)

  11. July 23, 2011 11:25 am

    My library just got this one. After reading your review, I’ll definitely check it out.!

  12. July 26, 2011 9:57 am

    This book has it all. I can’t wait to read it.
    The trailer is amazing , one of the best of 2011.

    • August 1, 2011 9:11 am

      Carolina – I don’t normally watch book trailers, but I agree, this one is pretty good.


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