A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. And 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 who once lived here—one of whom was his own grandfather—were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a desolate 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.
When I saw the cover art for Ransom Riggs’ debut novel, I knew I had to read it. It’s a vintage photograph of this creepy looking little girl levitating. Pretty hard for me to resist as I love vintage photography. When I was a little girl and went to my grandmother’s, if I was “very good,” she’d get down an ancient photo album with a carved wood cover and let me look through it. It contained the kind of pictures you would assume would be taken in turn of the century Nebraska. Stout women with severe buns in period clothing holding plain-faced babies. Men in overalls or ill-fitting suits. Nondescript portraits of my long dead ancestors, kind of boring really, that is until about two-thirds of the way through the album and you got to the dwarfs. For a little girl growing up in a very homogeneous environment, this photograph of a male and female dwarf was the most exotic thing around. Who were they? Were we related? What did they do? How did they live? Did they work on the family farm? Grannie didn’t know. So many questions that would never be answered, since everyone who knew them were long dead. I was so excited to find out there was going to be a book that examined old photos and, hopefully, figured out their mysteries. Something I had always longed to do. Now I just had to wait patiently until the book came out.
Then the book trailer was made. You’ve watched the trailer, right? It’s so good! Here, watch it. I’ll wait.
You can see why my need for this book ratcheted up to eleven, can’t you? It’s so creepy, I just had to have it! I pre-ordered my copy and on the day it released went to pick it up with glee plastered all over my face. Miss Peregrine’s is an absolutely gorgeous book. Quirk Books has gone all out on this one. Thicker cover boards, beautiful end papers, and wonderfully lush pages. Not to mention the forty-four vintage photographs that are placed throughout the book, corresponding seamlessly with the story. It has a delicious weight to it that harkens back to the way books used to be made, that is, to last. Dear readers, you must buy the hardback. It’s worth every penny and kudos to Quirk Books for giving this book the treatment it deserves.
Sadly, the day I picked up my copy of Miss Peregrine’s was extremely busy with real life stuff I couldn’t abandon to lose myself in a book, so I had to wait a day to start reading. Once I did though, the only thing that forced me to put it down that first night was the fact that I knew if I kept going, I’d have freaky dreams. Riggs sets up the story in spectacularly creepy fashion, and I’m kind of a chicken. Okay, a masochistic chicken. During the light of the next day, I picked Miss Peregrine’s back up and read until I was finished. I was completely engrossed. I’d like to take a moment here to thank my husband, if I could, for making a trip to McDonald’s so our four-year-old didn’t starve. Thanks for supporting my habit, honey. So, what is Miss Peregrine’s actually about, besides being “creepy.”
Jacob Portman is the protagonist of this fantastical story. He’s a bored, rich, almost sixteen-year-old, with one friend—if you can call him that—and a desperate need to get fired from the family business. And then something happens. Something that changes the entire fabric of Jacob’s life and sets in motion his trip to the island of Cairnholm, off the coast of Wales. Jacob gets really messed up by the tragedy that befalls his family. I mean, he is pretty much a complete wreck before flying across the world to hopefully find some answers to the plethora of questions that plague him. When Jacob actually finds Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, my mind immediately went to the Nicole Kidman movie The Others. Eerie, remote island with even eerier fog. Check. Weird house. Check. A sense that something is just not right. Check. Cue raised arm hairs. Awesome, right?
What Jacob discovers after being in the house wasn’t what I was expecting, honestly, I don’t know what I was expecting, but what it was is the basis for one of the most enjoyable reads I’ve had in a long time. Riggs is a true storyteller and has weaved together an original plot with a cast of intriguing, yes, down right peculiar characters that you want to have sit-downs with and long conversations over tea. Through all the twists and turns the author takes you on, he ensures that Jacob begins to come to terms with his life and those crazy stories his beloved grandfather told him. Our protagonist becomes a hero.
I’m not going to go into any further detail about the plot, you deserve to have the mystery unfold for you, the chance to put all the various crazy pieces of the puzzle together. It’s a tapestry of creativity, magic, and adventure with fantastic dialogue and a protagonist that you will want to adopt. I highly recommend giving Miss Peregrine’s a read. Don’t let the creepy factor scare you off. It’s like a roller-coaster, you climb and climb slowly up and up and once you go over the pinnacle, you have that moment of weightlessness before the thrill ride takes over. You’ll finish breathless and immediately want to go again.