352 pages, Quirk Books, ISBN-13: 978-1594744761
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children offers a unique premise in that it combines an original story with a series of vintage – though peculiar – photographs to present a tale that is both whimsical and chilling. I loved the idea of this book. 16-year-old Jacob grows up listening to the tales of his grandfather’s childhood in an orphanage filled with children with unusual powers and evil monsters lurking in the shadows. As Jacob grows older, he begins to doubt the veracity of his grandfather’s tales, believing that they grew out of his struggles under the Nazi regime. When Jacob’s grandfather is killed under mysterious circumstances, Jacob decides to investigate his grandfather’s past by going to the orphanage where he grew up. Once there, Jacob discovers that the people – and monsters – might be real after all.
This book starts out really strong. The action starts immediately, Jacob is witty and likeable, and a chilling mystery is introduced. Ransom Riggs does a great job in building suspense; I almost felt like I was reading a ghost story at the beginning with the constant references to the past and the expectation of something really scary happening. However, my expectations fell flat, and I realized that this book is a little bit all over the place. For one thing the pacing of the book is off: the beginning moves quickly; the end moves quickly; but the middle just laaaaaags. I felt the middle focused more on world-building (although Riggs does portray a very unique world) and introducing characters rather than actually moving the plot forward. There could have been a better balance. I also felt like there were a lot of flat characters, for while Jacob and Emma are the most well-rounded characters Emma only appears in half of the book; perhaps this because this is Riggs’ debut novel and he has a LARGE cast of characters. My guess is that the sequel will be much smoother.
The vintage images in this book are haunting and set the tone perfectly. The mystery is creative if a bit inscrutable. I loved Jacob’s search for the truth, but the explanations were fuzzy and the bad guys a bit over the top. I was a little disappointed that the book wasn’t MORE whimsical. It seemed to get a bit too caught up in its structural device without working more on character development. I wish the author had developed the story a bit more. Still, it has a lot of mystery, action and suspense. I am divided on whether I will continue to reading the series, however, I would still recommend this book to most young adult readers looking for something unusual and different to read. It’s worth it for the photos alone.