Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children #1
by Ransom Riggs
Published on June 7, 2011 by Quirk Books
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Young Adult
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A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of curious photographs.
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 the 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.
Children with extraordinary gifts isn’t, in itself, very original.Given that, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is home (both in the novel and as a book) to a host of unusual children with striking images to match. From the synopsis, I expected more of a horror-type story which is not my usual reading choice; however, with the movie trailers out and eye-catching on their own, I thought it worth a shot. What I found instead was an adventure of a boy as he deals with the death of his grandfather. Everything about this book screams scary. Horrifying. Possibly nightmare evoking. And all of that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Miss Peregrine’s is a middle-grade adventure novel with characters that are as flat and lifeless as the Flat Stanleys we used to send in school.. Every expectation I had for this novel went out the window with the extensive focus on Jacob’s descriptions of the world and how hard it is dealing with his grandfather’s death. I don’t take death lightly and wouldn’t expect anyone, even fictional, to handle something of that nature well. HOWEVER, I don’t like Jacob’s character. He’s spoiled and obnoxious, with familial issues that come off far less sincere and more like plot aids at best.
The rest of the cast, primarily the “peculiar children,” are simply names with attached powers. No backstory. No life. Just a quick mention for the majority of them, and the few that received more than a couple lines weren’t believable. The only character beside Jacob worth discussing is his romantic counterpart, Emma. Hailing back to my post on my biggest bookish pet peeves, everything about this subplot was unnecessary. I don’t care if you’re writing a young adult novel. You don’t need to have a romance. I love romance, I really do, but only when you can convince me that it fits the story and the characters. Emma and Jacob came off as forced as well as a little weird (View Spoiler »hel-lo, she was with his grandfather who is dead « Hide Spoiler).
So subplots aside, the main story had a lot of potential. If your characters suck, you better have a damn good story to compensate. Instead, I felt this world was…lackluster. Riggs left a number of plot holes, unanswered questions, and tended to expand on parts of the world that were the least interesting while leaving the rest as nothing more than mentions of intrigue. And the pictures! All of these creepy images appeared throughout the novel in relation to the characters and story, but while those were cool, they were quite out-of-place for the feel of the novel. I never got a scary vibe from reading Miss Peregrine’s and I think that was one of its greatest downfalls.
This was certainly not the worst book I’ve ever read and there was a lot of potential for improvement in the sequels. Though I’m not sure I will continue reading this series, and I certainly don’t recommend it to readers looking for a good horror-esque young adult novel, it’s a good fit for middle-grade adventure fans.