Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children
Happy New Year to all! I apologize for skipping a week of recommendations, but considering the turn of the decade, I indulged myself in a little break.
I’ve decided to start the year with a blast from the past, a book I’ve cherished a lot when I was younger and one I’ve recently re-read (in one day!) just so I can have the most accurate recollection for when I’d recommend it to you. The book in question is Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, written by Ransom Riggs.
Before I dive into why I’ve enjoyed this book so much, I have to mention that this is Riggs’ first novel, which is something to applaud and also to aspire to. The level of skill and attention the book exudes would not give this fact away, and it certainly made me determined to work harder on my own projects.
Miss Peregrine is centered around Jacob Portman, a teenager from Florida, as he sets out to discover if his late grandfather’s childhood stories of peculiar children and magical orphanages are just fairytales, or reality after all.
What is striking and quite special (or peculiar, if you’d like to get cheeky) about this book is that it’s not just a skillful combination of words laid into a beautiful story, but a tale that has pictures to go with it. Who hasn’t picked up a book as a kid only to go straight to the pictures? In this case, the pictures (real photographs found at flea markets or carefully selected and bought from collectors) inspired the story of Miss Peregrine and feature heavily in it, along with shots of letters or drawings made specifically for the book. In other words, it’s not only a book, but entertainment, a mix of mediums if you’d like, and if you’re like me, you won’t be able to put it down until it’s finished.
Slight spoilers ahead:
- The tone is just right. I’ve read it as a teen and I’ve read it as an adult and both times felt just as magical. Some might be wary of it since it’s basically YA, but it doesn’t read like a novel for young people, it just reads like a novel. Its tone is hilarious, magical, and dramatic at exactly the right times, and even just by reading the prologue, it sucks you into its world.
- From that, the nostalgia and yearning for an escape into a Different World will hit you hard. Re-reading this not only made me remember my first experience with the book, way back when I was younger and had a desperate need for magic in my life, but it made me live on a plane of new possibilities, of mysteries and wonders and adventures, if only for a day. If you’re looking for an escape from your regular job and stressful life, this is one.
- The pictures provide great visuals, sure, but they also help in humanizing the characters. By that I mean making them real, tangible people. You know they’re real because the pictures are real, they exist. Those people were definitely not supernatural beings, but their real stories remain unknown, so what’s left is their new story. Considering the quite big cast of characters, it helps a lot to have visuals of all the children at Miss Peregrine’s home, each with their own little quirks.
- The story is incredibly dynamic. The prologue is enough to suck you in, as Grandpa Abe tells us and Jacob stories of his time at the Home. We then begin a journey with Jacob as he discovers his life is not as boring as he thought, that his yearning for the extraordinary was merely his cluelessness to it already being around him. We travel with Jacob across the globe, from Florida to an island in Wales and from the present to 1940. We come across mysteries, such as who killed the sheep herd and Martin the museum curator, we experience romance as Jacob and Emma bond, and we’re taken on a tense mission as the kids race to rescue Miss Peregrine from the hands of the wights.
- Despite the pictures doing some of the work to kickstart the characterizations, Riggs does a fantastic job of giving life to each and every one of the characters. I don’t have to say that Jacob is a total darling, a funny, rebellious, brave boy deserving of his main character title. But he’s not outshining the others, like Emma (“a spark”) or Enoch (“dead-riser”) or Bronwyn (“berserker, taster of blood”). Even Millard shines, and he’s invisible! The kids are such a diverse cast of characters, young but old, brave but scared, delicate but strong. Each and every one will surprise you, and each and every one will carve a place into your heart. Enoch would probably steal it though, but it’d be for a good cause.
- There’s one plot twist that’s lying in wait since the beginning, ready to strike. If you’re a fan of mysteries and if you pay close attention (or just have a doubtful nature), you might see it coming, but if it gets past you, it’ll surely do its job of surprising you when you get to the reveal. If anything, even being aware of it and having it confirmed will be satisfying.
- Excluding the pictures, the novel still remains incredibly visual. From the description of the island to the hot Florida neighborhood of rich people and Jacob’s torment at being stuck there, images that don’t appear in the book will surely appear in your mind. Beautiful colorful fish, vintage settings and scary lighthouses will take shape off the page and will make reading this book that much more enjoyable.
Although I haven’t read the other books in ages, I can guarantee they’re equally as good. I can’t speak for the movie since I haven’t watched that, so I’m keeping my recommendation strictly on the books, but it does have Eva Green playing Miss Peregrine, so it can’t be bad.
In all, this book is a wonderful experience waiting to happen, and if you ever get the chance to read it, I urge you to. Bring a little magic into your life, allow yourself to go back to your youth and experience those wonders again. You won’t regret it.
Thank you for sticking with me!