Saturday, August 13, 2011

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

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Reading Level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Quirk Books, 7 June 2011
A mysterious island.

An abandoned orphanage.

A strange collection of very curious photographs.

It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, 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, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows. (quoted from Goodreads)

While attending University, I took an old-school, black-and-white photography class. I learned how to roll and develop my own film, work in the darkroom (one of my favorite parts!) and actually use my camera properly. I enjoyed nearly every single one of our assignments, but there was one that always fascinated me. We were asked to find three old photographs, ones we had no prior knowledge about, and create a story around them. I remember thinking this assignment, if done properly, would make a wonderful idea for a novel. I cannot explain how excited I was when I saw that was exactly what Ransom Riggs did with Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. The fact that he executed this idea of found-photographs-turned-fictional-story so well is nothing short of spectacular. I'm not exactly sure I can adequately express how much I love this quirky, wonderful debut novel, but I shall try my best.

Jacob grew up listening to Grandpa Portman's magical childhood tales. Abraham Portman had wondrous stories of children who could float, create fire in their hands, had super strength and were invisible. He even had photographs to back them up! But, as Jacob grew older, he realized how silly those stories were. Children can't have special abilities like that. Monsters don't really exist. The photographs were obviously doctored. Grandpa Portman just stretched the truth a bit because - having been a Jewish refugee from Poland during World War II, sent to live at a Children's Home - fantasy was much more appealing than reality. None of this stuff could possibly be real... or could it? When a tragic event happens, Jacob has to sort out whether or not to believe logic or his Grandfather.

Jacob was a witty, strong, well-fleshed out character. He had a great personality, was very likable and absolutely believable. Honestly, I don't know how anyone could resist liking him. Though he was made to believe he had lost his mind after the family tragedy (his family put him in therapy to cope with the trauma), Jacob still searched out answers. When he finds a letter at his Grandpa's home from Miss Peregrine, Jacob decides he is going to figure out, once and for all, what is truth and what is fiction. He talks his father into taking him to the remote island in Wales where his Grandfather grew up. I liked that he was so determined to figure out what was real that he wasn't afraid to go looking for it, even in the creepy old Children's Home. He took action instead of waiting for something to happen and boy was he rewarded. The kid has guts, let me tell you.

*Warning: this paragraph contains some spoilers*
I was so happy when Jacob discovered that his beloved Grandpa's stories were true, and the children and Miss Peregrine were still alive! And not only were they all alive, they hadn't aged a day since Abe left due to living in a time loop. What an ingenious idea! I fell in love with all of the peculiar children and Miss Peregrine the second I met them. Their abilities and personalities made the story even more wonderful and intriguing. The setting(s) was perfect and very effective to the mood of the novel. In Jacob's time, the Children's Home was creepy and falling into disrepair after a bomb landed on it during the war. In the loop, the Home was a magical place full of laughter and learning; I know I would love to go there! Even the island itself added to the story with it's craggy cliffs and rolling fog. As for the antagonist... well, let's just say that Ransom certainly knows how to write some seriously scary villains!

I loved how the author utilized the vintage photographs to create such an amazing tale and fantastic characters. I was a little worried, after looking at the photos on the cover, that I might get too scared to enjoy and finish the book (I don't do well with scary). Although most of the photos really creeped me out and I did get spooked in some parts of the novel, the story and characters captivated my imagination and planted itself deep in my heart. I absolutely adore Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children and I recommend it to anyone looking to get swept away in a charming, thrilling and unique read.

A favorite quote: "I used to dream about escaping my ordinary life, but my life was never ordinary. I had simply failed to notice how extraordinary it was."


  1. I've been totally fascinated by this book ever since I heard of it, because of the whole found photographs aspect. I'm glad to hear that while it's a bit creepy it's not totally scary, because that's why I've been hesitating with it. Maybe I will add it to my TBR list after all!

  2. Oh you should! I really enjoyed it. I am a HUGE chicken when it comes to scary stuff, but I was fine. I hope you like it! :) Thanks for the comment!


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