Ransom Riggs – Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
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.
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.
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