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A Review of Young Adult Novel, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
The book's cover, font, and collection of eerie photographs ensured I was in for a mysterious and dark adventure
I must admit that I picked up the book for the most superficial of reasons: I liked the cover. After reading Looking for Alaska, I was looking for a story that was more fantastical and less grounded in the harshness of reality. The cover, along with the glowing reviews from my friends and coworkers, encouraged me to give Ransom Riggs's YA novel, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, a shot.
Despite the amazing potential the book had and the unique approach of including old, arcane photos as a means to guide the story along, I was ultimately disappointed. I closed the book and realized I did not care what happened to the characters; I had no interest in reading the sequel. Although Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children was a fairly quick read, it was far from inspiring or memorable in any way. I felt cheated, having been given a promise of a fantastic story of suspense and mystery and intrigue only to leave with that promise very much unfulfilled.
Teenager Jacob Portman travels to an island off the coast of Wales to solve the mystery of his grandfather's death
Jacob Portman comes from a rich family. He could have almost anything he could imagine. Unfortunately, money can't buy companionship or a sense of purpose. Jacob spends a lot of his free time with his grandfather, a survivor of the Nazi occupation of Poland. His grandfather entertains Jacob with stories about an island filled with children who possess strange and mystical abilities. That is, until Jacob informs his grandfather that he knows the stories aren't real; they're just stories.
After Jacob's grandfather is attacked and killed by a vicious creature that only Jacob can see, Jacob travels to the island to visit the orphanage his grandfather grew up in to find answers. There, he meets a rag-tag bunch of orphans, the orphans of his grandfather's stories. As the tale unravels, Jacob learns the truth about the monsters and must make the decision whether or not to take up the responsibility of leading and protecting the group of orphans.
The creepy photographs and eerie aesthetics make a promise the story does not fulfill
Jacob is a forgettable and bland protagonist
As I read, I kept waiting for Jacob to develop into an interesting character. He starts out as a dull and lifeless sketch of a teenage boy. While I suppose Jacob is a blank enough slate for young readers to use as a way to project their own self into the role of the protagonist, I found Jacob to just be too flat. At the end, we're supposed to see that, although Jacob is just "a regular teenager," he's the only one with the unique ability to save the orphans. That's all fine and dandy. What I find disheartening is not this cop-out plot device of suddenly making Jacob a sort of Chosen One; I am more peeved at the fact that Jacob is still fundamentally the same boring, uninspiring character at the end of the book as he was in the beginning. Despite all the magic and danger and mystery he's experienced, I don't see any evidence to suggest that Jacob has grown mentally, emotionally, or spiritually at all.
The book has since been adapted into a graphic novel
Several aspects of the story don't really make much sense
I felt unsatisfied with the book for many different reasons. For one, I felt that many of the interesting parts of the book were kind of hashed over or weren't really explained completely. What comes to mind is the way the orphans can remain on the island without aging at all. I won't go too much into detail for fear of spoiling one of the few intriguing mysteries for you, but I will say that, while the method itself is clever, it felt as if the author had only half thought it out. Okay, sure, I'm on board with the idea of a group of children remaining children for decades and decades, like the Lost Boys in Peter Pan. But why do they still act like such young kids? Why are they not restless with being children? Why haven't they mentally aged? These are questions I wanted answered, at least in part. I wanted to understand the children's existence, and this lack of information distanced me from feeling any sort of connection with them.
While some aspects of the story just aren't explained to my satisfaction, other parts just plum don't make sense. For instance, the fact that Miss Peregrine alters between being incredibly strong and pathetically weak raises a lot of red flags for me. Why does she possess the ability of constructing a way to keep her charges children as well as safe from those who would do them harm, but she cannot prevent herself from being kidnapped? Why is Jacob, a teenage boy with little understanding of what makes him unique, the only one who can rescue her? And if Miss Peregrine has been helping the orphans hone their particular skills for literally more than fifty years, why are all the orphans so incompetent when it comes to protecting themselves? While I can suspend my belief enough to embrace the idea of magic and monsters, I cannot forgive such glaring discrepancies.
The orphans' personalities were nearly indistinguishable from one another
Sure, all the orphans are unique in that they have certain skills and abilities that make them "peculiar." However, instead of standing out from one another, they all melded together into a big, boring, bland blob. Other than their special attributes, they had nothing else that made them unique. I didn't feel as if any of them had distinct personalities; rather, instead of getting a sense for who they were, I had to rely on what they could do in order to keep them separate. As I was reading, I kept having to go, "Olive is talking now. Which one is she? I think she's the one who can levitate." This, I imagine, is one of the reasons I just couldn't submerge myself in the book. Between having to pop out of the story in order to look at the photographs (which were more interesting than the story I was reading) and trying to remember which orphan was which, I was unable to have a full and uninterrupted reading experience.
booksandquills on YouTube offers a much more positive review
The author took an intriguing idea and executed it horribly
I think this goodreads user puts it perfectly in her review when she says that Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is nothing more than a watered down version of The X-Men. Unfortunately, even the worst film/comic/television program in The X-Men franchise is more exciting and fleshed out than Ransom Riggs's novel which just has too many holes in it to be enjoyable. With lackluster characters and plot discrepancies galore, this book has nothing to fall back on except the strange and beautiful pictures scattered about the pages.
Even the little slice of romance in the book is nothing more than ho-hum. I don't anticipate revealing that Jacob develops feelings for one of the orphans will ruin anybody's reading experience, as it's neither surprising nor exciting. If we ignore the fact that it's a bit gross that Jacob's making out with the same girl his grandfather dated long ago, the relationship itself is as boring as can be. The two characters have little in common and even less chemistry. The romance that blooms between them doesn't feel organic or natural; instead, the reader knows it's coming through simply witnessing how the author sets up these two characters to get together.
In the digital age, finding creepy photos is less exciting
Is continuing on with the story worth it?
Do you plan on reading the sequel, Hollow City?
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is overhyped and underdeveloped
Although I set out to read a fantastical story that would surprise and excite me, that expectation fell quite flat in actuality. While the novel has achieved great popularity (there's a movie adaptation in the works), the story itself is plodding. With uninteresting characters and a half-baked plot, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children pales in comparison to other children's fantasy series, such as Harry Potter and the classic Chronicles of Narnia. If you're looking for a delicious and unique book that combines fantasy with suspense, mystery, and romance, save yourself some time and look somewhere else.