Before I started reading Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, I took off the book jacket and placed it on the coffee table. I didn’t want that image anywhere near my bedroom, where I was convinced it would give me nightmares. That picture is scary.
The book is scary too, but only for a little while then it evens out into a nice time-travelly tale about a bunch of strange kids. I’m glad it did too, because the creepy, crawly, suspense is not exactly my cup of tea, and some of the accompanying pictures were the stuff of nightmares. Seriously, there’s this picture of twin, dead-eyed ballerinas in Harlequin costumes that still makes me shudder in horror.
But the pictures here are like frosting on a brownie. Delicious, for sure. Necessary? Not at all. The story here is fulfilling enough on its own.
The story centers around sixteen-year-old Jacob. He’s got a set of richie-rich parents, one friend he’s not so crazy about, and a grandfather he adores. Grandpa here is quite a character. He escaped the Nazis as a child only to end up in a strange orphanage on a rocky, remote island in Wales. Grandpa has outrageous stories and strange pictures from his stay at Miss Peregrine’s.
When Jacob witnesses his Grandpa’s brutal death at the hands of what might be an actual monster, he loses his shit. He loses it to such a degree that his parents immediately hook him up with weekly therapist appointments and let him quit his after-school job (even though Jacob’s mom is an heiress, he must learn the family business by working in one of their drugstores).
After a few months of sessions, Jacob, with the help of his therapist, convinces his parents that he should travel to England and the orphanage. Perhaps, he argues this will bring him some peace, closure. His parents acquiesce and with his bird-watching dad in tow, Jacob heads to Cairnholm Island in Wales. The island is rocky and rainy and remote. The electricity goes out every night at like 10 because that’s when the islanders turn off the generator.
It doesn’t take Jacob long to find the wreck of the children’s home surrounded by a bog. But what he finds there isn’t at all what he expected. It isn’t at all what the reader expects either.
I can’t say much else about the plot without spoling the hell out of it, and I don’t want to spoil it. It’s a fresh, original, unexpected plot that deserves to be so for every reader.
I will say that I really enjoyed reading this. I liked watching Jacob come of age, and figure things out and make really tough decisions about staying true to himself or doing what his family would want. The writing here is pretty good and I only hope that in the sequels Ransom Riggs spends a little more time on characterization and a little less time on describing the setting.
But overall this is a fast-paced, enthralling, and kinda creepy read.