Monday, July 18, 2011

"Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children" By Ransom Riggs...

Recently, my boyfriend was ordering some books to fulfill his membership requirements with the Science Fiction Book Club, and as a perk they offered a certain number of freebies. He asked me if there was anything I would like to order. There were a couple of authors that popped off the top of my head, but the club didn't carry any titles by them. That left me to do a quick perusal since he was in the process of placing his order. At a glance, the cover of 'Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children' jumped out at me. After reading the short blurb of a description, I was intrigued. It looked to be something that was 'up my alley', so I chose it. A week or so later, it arrived.

There wasn't a whole lot about the book that was all that original. Sixteen year old Jacob, the central character, works in one of his family's drug stores, a 'pie' he will eventually get a piece of. The story starts off centering mainly on his relationship with his grandfather. The rather eccentric old man regaled a young Jacob with stories of an island where Miss Peregrine looked after an odd assortment of children. They all had special talents/abilities. Tragedy befalls Jacob when his grandfather is seemingly murdered by "monsters". He leaves behind a message for Jacob telling him he must go the island because he will be safe there. I was pretty engaged during that first section of the book, and was hopeful that I would really be in for a ride once he got to the island. Unfortunately, that didn't happen. He does meet up with the peculiar kids, who have abilities such as strength, invisibility, levitation...nothing I haven't seen before. (They kind of struck me as a poor man's 'X-Men'.) Shapeshifting, monsters, time loops, and 80 year olds who look to be ten. Yes, I am leaving out quite a bit of the plot. If I write a review of something, I'm not inclined to say if "the butler did it" in case a reader of said review might want to give the book a go for them self.

From the first page it did grab me, which is usually a good sign. I found the authors' (Ransom Riggs) writing style comfortable in a very casual way. Not to the point of it feeling like it was "written in crayon", but a seemingly easy read that I could jive with. The kick off point to the story and the characters involved also had me wanting to read more. At first it felt like a mystery story with some horror tidbits thrown in, but the horror side didn't really do it's job. There were several points where I feel I should have been at the very least creeped out, but those moments fell disappointingly flat. Once Jacob gets to the island, it loses some of its steam. The genre of the book is one I have spent a lot of time exploring, and much of the book felt...familiar. Like I had visited similar places and witnessed particular events in other books I have read. There was also quite a bit that was easily predicted. No, my assessment so far isn't a glowing one, so I'll get to the one original element that I did appreciate.

One of Riggs' more inspired additions to the book are the collection of vintage photographs that form the spine of the plot. All of the photos are actual pictures, and were not created for the book. At the end of the story, there is a list of the owners/collectors. I don't know for sure, but I think it's a safe assumption that Riggs pre-selected the photos he uses, creating the story around them. His execution of the book and photographs meshing is quite good. He does show that he is an able writer as he created a cohesive world of characters around the antique images.

One of my chief criteria for a good read is 'how did it end?' Did I feel satisfied when I got to the last word of the last page? Not so much with this one. It dangled in the breeze a little much for me. 'Miss Peregrine's' is clearly intended as the first in a series. When it was all over, it left me hanging. You want to write a series? Fine and dandy. Just don't leave me hanging. A book, whether it's going to be the first in a series or not...should be self contained. Even if the story obviously extends beyond the last page of the first volume, I should at least feel a sense of completion for the part of the journey I just traveled.

How do I rate this one? Do I recommend it? I don't give it a 'Thumbs Up', or 'Thumbs Down'. I'll have to waver in the middle, so I rate this one 'On The Fence'. I wasn't bowled over by it, but I didn't feel like it was a complete waste of time when I reached the end. I'll put it this way, if you want something to kill time in the dentist's waiting room, or want something to read while catching some rays at the beach, this would be a good choice. If the second book makes it to the shelves, will I pick up a copy? I don't think I became that invested in continuing the trip. My jury is out...


  1. What a wonderful phrase: "It dangled in the breeze for me". Interesting review. I do like the cover photo, though.