I have heard Ransom Riggs’ Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children described as the hipster Harry Potter. While reading Miss Peregrine’s I found that I struggle to agree with this statement. Yes, both books are roughly aimed toward the same age group, Rigg’s being recommended for 13-17 and Rowling’s for 9 and up, and they both are adventure stories whose main characters are males discovering who they are amidst a series of unusual circumstances and people, but as for the writing style, flow, and plot progression the comparison is lost.
Riggs’ language and style is clearly aimed for young adults. He writes in a way that supports the main character being in his late teens and telling the story himself. As with many people his age Jacob, the storyteller, throws in the occasional bit of foul language as he expresses emotions and circumstances relating to sexual desire and coping with the death of a loved one; note that these scenes are not graphic.
The actual story itself follows Jacob as he sets out on a journey to find the truth behind his recently deceased grandfather’s tall tales. His grandfather had always told him that he grew up on a small island in a home for children with “special gifts” and that upon leaving this home he was always on the run from monsters set on killing him and his kind. Everyone assumed this was just an elaborate story created to help cope with being a Jewish child sent to Wales to escape the Nazis during the war. When Jacob cannot seem to shake the idea that maybe his grandfather was telling the truth the whole time his therapist recommends he goes to the island and see for himself. Much of the book is Jacob exploring the children’s home and talking with those who knew his grandfather while he was there. However, during the last few chapters the action suddenly picks up when Jacob learns the truth about his grandfather, and himself, and then has to make a decision that will change his life and the lives of everyone he knows forever.
Due to the nature of the childrens’ “special gifts”, elements of time manipulation, and the discussion of time travel this book clearly falls into that young adult historical fiction fantasy category. Because the action does not appear until the book is nearly done it can be a bit of a slow read, however, I feel the next book in the series may prove to be far more adventurous. I did find flipping through the vast amount of odd photographs helped to keep me reading as each is tied to the story in very key ways which you cannot possibly imagine and do not discover until right as the photograph is presented. I do thoroughly recommend this book, but only if you are willing to commit to the entire series and push through the slow but necessary beginning. I did find that upon completing the final chapter I tossed the book on the table somewhat frustrated that it had just ended and I now have to go buy book two before I can find out what happens next.
And on a side note, kudos to Riggs for find a creative use for old trick photography.