Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children: A Book Review

There will be no spoilers in this review. Enjoy! (:

Ransom Riggs' Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children is a book I had been meaning to read for quite a while. I flipped through at least a year ago and was immediately curious about the strange photos that were scattered throughout the book. I probably would have read this book much sooner if I were able to purchase it on my Kindle (the Kindle price is significantly lower than the hardcover). However, upon reading reviews, I kept repeatedly coming across comments that the vintage letters and photos in the book, a vital part of experiencing the story, were not clear enough on the Kindle screen. This was enough reason for me to wait to purchase a tangible copy, once I could justify the price difference.

(photographed: Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs)

I have never been a fan of descriptions on the back covers or inside covers of books. I always feel they reveal too much of the book, however, readers other than myself seem to enjoy them and find them useful. So, without further ado, here is the description on the inside cover:

"It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that Miss Peregrine's children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow - impossible though it seems - they may still be alive."

The inside cover mentions that Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children is a mix of fiction and photography, and if you're someone like me who prefers the bare minimum when being told what a story is about, is the only description you need. Riggs plants vintage found photographs throughout his novel. If the reader weren't aware of the authenticity behind the vintage photography, they would think he had these photos taken just for the intentions of writing his book. Not only were the transitions between fiction and photography seamless, but their relationship was symbiotic. Each played off of the other beautifully and makes it impossible for me to imagine this book sans photos. Even being a huge fan of the imagination essentially required of reading novels, I didn't find the photography overbearing in the least.

Just for the sake of establishing something others may find useful, though I personally believe anyone can read any book they desire regardless of reading level, the reading level of this book reflects its target of a younger audience. It's an easy read that effectively reflects the first-person POV of the sixteen-year old narrator, Jacob. 

Generalizations aside, I found the start of the book a bit rough. The introduction chapter had my attention, and somewhere within the first two chapters, I felt it was lost a bit. Within these first two chapters, I didn't feel as if I had a good grasp on the narrator, Jacob, or what type of reality he was living in (I think I need to reiterate that I never read inside/back cover descriptions before reading a book), which, to me as a reader, was rather unsettling. I don't feel as if a reader should have to read the description of a book in order to not feel confused. However, by the third chapter, the pace picked up a bit. I enjoyed seeing some of the relationships that were unfolding and the different characters that existed on this island. And by the time I was half way through the book I could no longer put it down.

My favorite part of the Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children is undoubtedly the relationships between Jacob and the remaining characters. Typically, by the last few chapters of a book I can tell where my emotions are invested. I have established who I'm rooting for, and who I want to be sucked into a black hole never to return. And by the end of this particular book, I was most invested not in one single character, but the relationships that these characters held. Riggs' use of conversational dialogue to show character interaction is what I felt helped strengthen these bonds.

My reaction upon finishing the book? A deep desire for there to be a second. Though there were snippets of the book that I found predictable, I have never read a story quite as strange as this one. My desire for a second book does not mean that I was not satisfied with the ending, because if there were no second novel, I would be perfectly okay. The ending didn't leave me feeling robbed, but rather left the emotion that "good" novels tend to leave on me, a dangerous desire to know what extends beyond the book, though as a writer I should know better.

I would recommend this book to those who enjoy books of the fantasy/adventure genre or anyone who is yearning to read something out of the ordinary.

I bow down to Ransom Riggs, the mad genius who assembled a captivating story from a large selection of authentic, vintage found photographs.

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