Wednesday, June 4, 2014


Ransom Riggs' Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children is a young adult fantasy.

Soulless spirits kill sixteen-year-old Jacob's grandfather. Only Jacob can see the murderers. When Jacob talks about them, Jacob's parents put him in psychiatric care.

Jacob's grandfather faced two threats. He was a Jewish child spirited out of Germany alone to avoid the gas chambers. Then he came to be a part of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children on a remote island near Wales. He gathered with Miss Peregrine and other homeless children to survive WWII and fight off the soulless Peculiars.

Jacob's grandfather spent Jacob's growing years telling Jacob stories about peculiar children. They had strange gifts. One could levitate (see the cover). Another could cup fire in her hands. A third was super strong. And there were many more.

A few became corrupted. These were the soulless ones.

The non-corrupted children lived in groups gathered in time warps and led by bird-women like Miss Peregrine. She could change back and forth from being a woman to being a Peregrine.

As he became a teenager, Jacob disbelieved his grandfather's stories. He saw them as fantasy. Then he saw the spirits kill his grandfather.

In his search for the truth, Jacob finds Miss Peregrine's Home. He gets caught up in a time loop. The same day, the day the Germans bombed Miss Peregrine's home and killed the children, plays over and over again.

And Jacob falls in love. His girlfriend is the young lady who loved his grandfather. In the time loop, she is still a teenager, though she is 80+.

My summary doesn't do the book justice. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children has interesting characters and a compelling plot. The story ends with a massive battle that leads into the next book.

Ransom Riggs built his book around old photographs. He collects old photographs, especially strange trick-photographs like the picture of the girl levitating from the ground. In this sense, the book is a picture book. He wrote the book to narrate photographs he borrowed from himself and other collectors.

I ran on to the book because a teacher friend was reading it. She offered to loan it to me.

Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children is just the kind of strange, well-written book that sometimes pulls me in.

The book was a #1 New York Times bestseller. I'd never heard of it until my friend told me about it.


John said...

"Not a mystery" What? I would most definitely call this book a mystery. It's filled with oddities and unexplained events and mysterious people. Probably it's more akin to fantasy with it's alternate world and time travelling. When I went to find a copy of this of book at Barnes & Noble it wasn't on the shelf in the any of the usual places I would look - fiction, mystery, or fantasy sections. I had to ask for help. The bookseller kindly led me to the Young Adult section and I have to confess I was embarrassed to be there. Still I bought it and read it. I don't think it's deserving of all the accolades. It's not very well constructed for a novel. In fact it has no real plot or conflict and this frustrated me. For me it was like reading the script of a video game. But it is filled with a lot of interesting incidents and will hold the reader's attention for its very strangeness and the imaginatively realized characters with all their quirks and "special powers." There is a sequel that was published earlier this year called HOLLOW CITY that continues the story which in this book is not truly resolved.

Joe Barone said...

Thanks, John. I use the "not a mystery" designation in the title to warn people that the book is not of the usual noir or cozy type mystery I read.

I agree that this not of the same quality as some other similar YA books. I liked Harry Potter better. and my all-time favorite is probably A WRINKLE IN TIME.

Yvette said...

I 'read' this too, Joe, and enjoyed it's bizarre aspects very much. Though I wish the story had been a bit more coherent. But then, what can you expect with those eerie photos leading the way. I haven't read the sequel though. Had forgotten all about it. I must remember to check it out of the library at some point. I do like the clever idea of fashioning text to old photos. Might be fun to do something like it one of these days. :)

Joe Barone said...

Yvette, I too was taken with the idea of writing a story around old photographs. I think my response to the book was much like yours. I enjoyed the fantastic part of the story, but I've read better YA fantasies.

Kelly Robinson said...

I enjoyed this, and reviewed it at Book Dirt. I think the first half was better than the second, but I was charmed. I think my childhood self would have loved it even more.

Joe Barone said...

Kelly, I looked up your review. Isn't it interesting how the books we read help us tap into where who we are and where we came from? I read several posts on Book Dirt and am going to try to list it on my blog (If I can remember how to do that.) I can see that you will lead me to some interesting books I might not otherwise read.