Saturday, 21 March 2015

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

Title: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Author: Ransom Riggs
Genre: YA fiction, dark fantasy
Published by: Quirk Books
Published in: 7th January 2011
Content warning: Language, mental illness, mild gore
Format: Hardback
Source: Borrowed from the library
My Rating:
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.

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography.

          I have to admit that I am not completely sure I know how to review this one. I rarely read horror/thriller books because I am chicken when it comes to scary material being put into words. Movies I can handle but get me far away from the books. And yet here I am, about to express my opinions about this book with a cover that screams "CREEPY. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK." you must wonder why did I read this in the first place. Yes, I would never have read this book if not for Jessethereader on YouTube. I've liked his selections and turns out this particular book is his favourite so I don't need any other convincing. Simple, really. *apologises for the anti-climatic moment*

Here goes the obligatory howl:


          Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is about 16-year-old Jacob, who grew up listening to his grandfather's mystical and fascinating stories about his childhood and teenager years while taking refuge on a Welsh island during WWII. What was so fascinating about these stories is that the home he lived in was filled with children who possessed supernatural powers. Grandpa also convinces Jacob that these stories were in fact real and shows Jacob many old pictures taken of the children as proof (we also get to see these pictures!). However as Jacob grows up he becomes more skeptical about his grandfather's stories and at last dismisses the stories as pure imagination and the pictures as manipulated mediums. When an unexpected tragedy strikes, Jacob's life is turned upside down. As he slowly recedes into the darkness of his mind, and the people around him start to question his sanity. Jacob realises that his only way to find escape and closure is to visit the island that his grandfather's beloved memories stemmed from and discover if there were any truths behind his (last) words.

          The story started out strong. It is told from Jacob's POV. The author writes fluidly about the normal but not-so-average life of Jacob as a privileged kid of a wealthy family. He constantly tries to get himself fired from his family's company and has a friend who is his complete opposite. Then the plot heads deeper from the surface and describes his grandfather's tales of adventure and wonder that Jacob used to love to hear about and believed were true since young. It was all sunny with dashes of the occasional skin crawl reading about the children who his grandfather befriended as a young teen. All his descriptions of them were accompanied with grayscale pictures of different kids from another era that reminded me of a toned-down version of vintage freak shows. Then Jacob's grandfather was mysteriously and brutally murdered and this is the point where everything goes downhill and outright creepy.

          Jacob's visit to Cairnholm Island and the now rundown children's home were the highlights of my read. I love the depictions of the unique Welsh culture and locals, and the thrill I got from reading about Jacob's exploration of the house. It was so creepy and I was constantly on guard for fear of reading about something jumping out and attacking Jacob. Expect the overused (but still not cool) horror gimmick from this book. If you succeed in getting through those, the part where Jacob finally unravels the truth about everything was definitely my favourite, and I will not spoil it for any of you. IT'S SO GOOD.

          Then after a slow-paced middle section, the plot completely shifts into a completely different genre of fantasy, action and adventure. I personally did not expect that coming as I did not read the synopsis and what type of genre it was. It caught me off guard when everything seemed to happen in one go and I was instantly swept away by the events taking place one after another at full speed. Despite the heavy suspense and the fingernail-biting live-or-die moments, there were hillarious scenes that made me giggle like a maniac late in the night that added colour to the one-way adventure direction the characters seem to be heading to.

          This book definitely ended with a boom *clap the sound of my heart the beat goes on and on..* (sorry) and dissolved into a serene atmosphere that promised a resolve to fight back the forces of evil that plagued Jacob and the other characters in the next book.

          A couple of things I did not like about this book were Jacob's characterisations and the unused potential of the pictures. Jacob was supposed to be sixteen and yet the whole book gave me the impression that he is more like a 13-year-old boy that still has difficulty balancing being childish and mature. I wished Jacob could have been more down to earth and empathetic towards people other than his grandfather and that he would have a narrative that is more fitting to the genre this book is supposed to be categorised in. I definitely loved the inclusion of the pictures with the plot but in some moments I felt like the author depended too much on them to tell his story and therefore lacked in consistency. Some of the pictures don't match the same person and certain ones did not play any role in the story. The descriptions could be written in a more mysterious and hauting manner to help readers connect with how Jacob felt when he looked at them instead of the straightfoward explanations I got, only to experience the creepiness after seeing the pictures.

          I give Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children 4/5 stars. It is not as well-written as I would've preferred, but somehow I find myself satisfied with the book. It was adventurous and unique, and somehow I was grateful that it did not turn out to be as horrifying as I thought it was going to be. It certainly did not end tragically or with my mind screwed up with a horrible plot-twist kinda thing like the film "The Others" and "Shutter Island", and I am delighted about that.

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