Tuesday, May 13, 2014

[Review] Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Rating: 4 Stars
Genre: Paranormal Fantasy, YA.
Synopsis: A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of very curious photographs.

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 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.

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.
The main attraction of this book, or at least it's unique selling point, is the vintage photographs provided in the book. They are all real collector's photographs, which I found pretty cool. I'm not a huge photography person. I mean... I only know Man Ray and Richard Avedon so I'm not a photography expert, but the photos were a nice touch to the story. Some of them weren't altogether relevant to the actual plot (the creepier ones), but it doesn't bother me as much as it does for other reviewers.

There's a lot going on in this book, a lot, so much so that the dynamics gets pretty convoluted at times and you have to take a moment to really understand the laws of this particular universe. I can't really go too deep into it without spoiling the story, but it does get a little complicated without much explanation.

Otherwise, I kinda sorta actually adored this book. I liked the character's sarcastic self-deprecating teenager voice. Any book that makes me laugh gets an extra gold star. The protagonist says things like: "It seemed like my parents were always trying to get me to care about money, but I didn't, really. Then again, it's easy to say you don't care about money when you have plenty of it." Jacob isn't particularly compelling and a little on the daft side, but he's a likable guy.

I also really enjoyed the WW2 jewish refugee backstory with Jacob's grandfather and that sometimes monsters aren't just the variety that pops up underneath the bed at night. There's actually so much I like about this book that I don't even have time to list out all my reasons. So why four stars and not five? Here's where the "paranormal fantasy" part of the book failed me. If it was only a story about a young boy who on a quest to uncover his grandfather's past, it would be just another YA Jewish coming of age "Everything is Illuminated" type of story, and understandably, it wouldn't have been quite as unique, but the whole fantasy part of the story was a little weak. Click for more, but beware of spoilers.

So basically (somewhat big spoiler alert--don't continue reading if you really can't stand the smallest hint of how the story plays out) Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is stuck in a time loop where all the children have been the same age for decades. They're all as old as Jacob's grandfather or even older. So why didn't Ransom Riggs actually flesh out what it would be like to live in this eternal limbo? There are some mentions of it, but I felt like he could've really taken it into some thought-provoking mind-bending territory. It's sort of like how J.K Rowling never really touched on many of the philosophical aspects of magic and its associated problems, besides that evil people will abuse it. What I'm more interested in is how it mentally affects people, but I guess that might be too much to ask.

Another weird part is that Jacob is sort of dating this girl that dated his grandfather. Talk about age gap. I don't know about you guys, but that part wasn't very d'aww. Those problems aside, this book is solid. There is a sequel and I'm a little iffy on continuing (just because I feel like it's going to really delve into the fantasy aspect and not so much the other stuff) but I'll give it a try.

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