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.
It seems like Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is one of those hit-or-miss sort of books. Its beginning showed a lot of promise with its creepy atmosphere, psychological-horror elements, and a mystery. There was also an inkling of familial love and I was almost certain that I would love it, especially since Miss Peregrine’s was the kind of book I don’t often read but wished I read more of. As the story wore on, I found that Miss Peregrine’s was extremely underwhelming. Though it is predicated on an excellent idea that has so much potential story-wise and character-wise (and I completely disagree that Miss Peregrine’s is similar to X-Men), the story ultimately falls flat.
My disappointments with Miss Peregrine’s come two-fold. First, the secrets behind the mystery are divulged part-way through the book. This isn’t an issue in itself, but the mysteries – Who are the peculiar children? How has their existence intertwined with the main character’s life? – held all the intrigue and all my curiosity. It was the suspense of not knowing, of being on the brink of finally knowing that kept me engaged and interested. Unfortunately, this mystery is unveiled with an anticlimax. Without its mystery and creepiness, the remainder of the book felt hollow, a shadow of what the book’s beginning promised. Even when we come to learn about the peculiar children, there was no strangeness in their existence, nothing that would evoke a curiosity for their condition or their character.
Second, one of my biggest qualms with this book was that the narrative voice was confusing and lacked cohesion. The strong, compelling narrative voice of a boy who had insecurities, ignorance, and an eccentric grandfather whom he loves but feels burdened by regretfully disappears into something much lesser and flatter. Irrelevant the fact that Jacob’s age is disclosed early in the book, for a large portion of Miss Peregrine’s, I truly believed he was twelve. Jacob speaks, acts, thinks like a young child – he even has the naivete of one – so imagine my confusion (and surprise!) when he voiced his hormonal, testosterone-loaded curiosity for the opposite sex. Not that it’s a bad thing to be curious about those things, but the inconsistencies of the narrative made immersing myself in the story a task.
Furthermore, without its mystery, the book loses its direction and precision. For what began as a seemingly creepy psychological horror soon became part-paranormal, part-coming of age adventure, part-historical fiction, part-science fiction, and – perhaps the worst of all – part-romance. That’s not to say that books should be bound to a few genres or themes, but as evidenced by the lacking execution of Miss Peregrine’s, it is a steep task that does not always succeed. There were moments when I genuinely enjoyed Miss Peregrine’s. However, in losing the strangeness, the curiosity, and peculiarity of the book, Miss Peregrine’s is a fumbling mess that is uncertain of its identity – and it really shows in its weakly structured and uninspired plot. Simply put, the story became boring.
The black and white photos, which I understand Riggs and a dedicated team painstakingly procured for this book (and that effort is something I appreciate), are a distinct feature of Miss Peregrine’s. I love looking at old photos, particularly ones that may challenge what ‘normal’ looked like in the past versus now. I was especially excited and thrilled at the prospect of reading a book with old, creepy photos that would intertwine with the narrative and set my imagination alight. And whilst I really did enjoy the photos, well-incorporated into the story they were not. It was clear that the photos steered the story, and unfortunately even the novelty of the photos did not adequately make up for the weak plot. As many other readers have pointed out and criticized, the photos and story felt disjointed and failed to work together to create an excellent narrative.
Miss Peregrine’s is a book that has an excellent concept but struggles to deliver in its promises. It isn’t dark, it isn’t creepy, it isn’t wondrous; it is, unfortunately, quite mediocre, forgettable, and not peculiar at all. Though the ending and cliffhanger seems to indicate that sequels will take on a more story-driven direction, Miss Peregrine’s didn’t really hook me in, and didn’t make me feel invested in the series and its characters. A decent read that entertains whilst reading, but not a series I would be interested in continuing.
Book Name: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Book Series: Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children
Author: Ransom Riggs
Thank you Jenna at Reading with Jenna for the recommendation!