Posted by: Genny Colby | August 30, 2011

Book Review-Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Jacob is a 16-year-old boy who does not feel like he fits into his family.  His mother’s family owns and runs a successful drug store chain (think like Walgreen’s/Rite Aid) and it is assumed that he will one day take his place in the family empire.  His mother is more concerned with showing off the remodeling/decorating that she has done to the house and his father has many ideas of writing a book/making some new discovery, of some kind.  Jacob always has had a close relationship with his paternal Grandfather, not really ever feeling like he fit in with is parents, not sure that he wanted the path that he had been laid out for him.  In fact, Jacob spends the summer trying to actually get fired from his job at one of the family stores, with no success other than making an enemy of his supervisor.

As a child, his grandfather would share some fantastical stories about running from and fighting monsters, children with unusual talents (such as a boy who had bees inside of him, a girl would could float, a strong boy and girl) and had pictures of the children to show Jacob to illustrate his story.  As Jacob grew up, he realized that these stories were more fantasy than reality and that the pictures were easily manipulated to show the fantastical feats his grandfather described .  Jacob also learned from his father that he had heard these stories when he was growing up, but that the truth was that Jacob’s grandfather had been sent from war-torn Poland to a children’s home in Wales, that his family had been killed by Hitler and Nazi forces, and that his grandfather than went on to fight against the German’s in World War II.  As soon as Jacob began to show resistance to his stories, his grandfather stopped showing Jacob the pictures and telling him stories of his youth.

Jacob and his grandfather did continue to share a close relationship as they both grew older.  When his grandfather calls him at work, in an agitated state, Jacob hurries over to his grandfather’s home to try to help him.  When he arrives, he finds his grandfather’s home in a state of disarray and follows the trail out into the woods behind his house.  He finds his grandfather, gravely injured.  He also catches a glimpse of what appears to be the monster his grandfather has always talked about, lurking in the shadows.  As Jacob deals with is grandfather’s death, he finds more pictures that accompanied his grandfather’s fantastical stories, which along with the cryptic message that were his grandfather’s dying words to him, Jacob begins to wonder if maybe some of what his grandfather told him may have been based in truth.

This sets off Jacob’s quest to visit the home in Wales where is grandfather was sent during the war, set on a remote island of Wales.    What Jacob finds upon his arrival is nothing that he could have expected, but it makes him realize that his grandfather had truly been telling him the truth all those years and now Jacob must decide what path to take…to turn his back on his grandfather’s legacy and return home, or to continue his grandfather’s fight against the monsters.

At first this seems like a pretty straight forward story…Jacob must journey to accept his grandfather’s death.  But as Jacob quickly discovers the secrets his grandfather has hidden all these years, it becomes much more.   The story does start out a bit on the slow side, with a large portion of the book setting the scene for Jacob’s journey.  At times this part of the story was uneven and seemed to provide more details about peripheral characters that don’t seem to come back later in the story.  Once Jacob arrives in Wales, the story does start to pick up.  The mystery of the story becomes apparent quickly, even if the mystical portion of this story is not always clearly explained.  A little more time explaining what the time loop was, how it worked, how it was maintained, and how it effected those inhabited in  time loop may have made this aspect flow a little better and fit with the rest of the story.

As Jacob begins to learn more about the home that his grandfather came to live, why this home was chosen for him, and the other children who lived their with him (***SPOILER!!*** ) whom Jacob meets when he enters the time loop and why Jacob can enter the time loop, the story really picks up, the writing gets smoother, and the book becomes hard to put down.  I found the explanation of the monsters slightly confusing, though since there will be at least one more book, I suspect that these details will more flushed out.  They are related to those with the power to create the time loops, used to protect those children with peculiar traits or talents.  These individuals were attempting to find a way to not only cheat death, but master time.  Something went wrong…and they turned into the monsters, which feed upon those with power and peculiar talents.  Miss Peregrine’s charge was to protect the children in her care from these monsters.

The characters were interesting and the use of actual pictures to illustrate the story was a nice touch.  I looked forward to seeing the pictures that accompanied the story, as they added a new depth to the story instead of being a gimmicky plot device.   They were not overused, but just enough to bring these peculiar children to life.

The biggest complaint I have is the developing relationship between Jacob and Emma.  Jacob is 16…Emma is for all practical purposes, almost 90 and dated his grandfather.  Simply because she has not aged due to being in the time loop does not take out the creepiness factor that she used to be in love with his grandfather.  I am not really sure that this book needs a love story as it feels slightly forced, a little awkward at times, and disjointed.

While I don’t know that the author had intended for there to be at least one more book when he completed this one, the ending sure did set up the plot for at least one more book.  It was nice to learn that he has in fact been acquiring additional pictures to use in at least one more book, as the ending left the characters and the story line in a state of “what next”.  While the ending was satisfactory for the story, it was not a conclusion to the overall story.

Overall I found this to be a very engaging, very interesting, if at times choppy story.  The concept was fairly unique, but not difficult to follow.  The use of photos added a level of reality to the story, yet did not distract from the overall storytelling flow.   It is not a long book, coming in at around 350 pages, but it is a nice, quick read. Perfect for a lazy summer day, or curling up in front of a fire.

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Responses

  1. I was looking at this at the book store and couldn’t decide if I wanted to read it or not… From your wonderful review, I think I need to pick it up! 🙂


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