Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
|Book Name:||Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children|
|Formatt:||Hardcover / Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook|
|Release Date:||June 7, 2011|
A curiously told tale, not driven by words but by pictures; a unique selling point, and probably the reason why Ransom Rigg’s debut novel dominated the New York Times Bestseller list for a year.
This is the story of a moody rich kid from contemporary Florida who is pulled into a mystery of creepy 1940s kids that can do weird things, like levitate and control time. Its X-Men meets Tim Burton – not a bad combination, in fact, Riggs uses the vintage images to breathe new life into the tropes of ‘special gifts’ and ‘peculiar powers.’ Some of them are purely for entertainment, and don’t contribute much to the overall story. It’s a gimmick, but a good one.
Riggs writes in a filmic way. He’s not overly descriptive and his prose is sharp, succinct. The pacing is pretty much spot on aside from a few wavering chapters near the end. The story continues to build, never letting the reader get bored, before a dramatic, if not slightly predictable dénouement. The first-person tense works well. It’s the easiest way to tell a story, whilst not always the most interesting. Riggs’ writing sometimes feels like writing, but these moments are sparse enough to maintain enjoyment in the story.
The mystery around which the story is based – who are the people in Grandpa Portman’s creepy photos, and why is Grandpa Portman not senile, just bad at communicating important plot information – is simple to follow through the eyes of Jacob, a convincing if not moving character voice. Some of the answers come too easy, and the reader might guess a few of the twists too early, but that doesn’t diminish the reading too much. Riggs writes with assurance for his YA audience. They’re the ones that are going to enjoy this story the most. Not those looking for a gothic classic, or a fantasy epic.
Character deaths in opening chapters can be a terrible idea in writing – why kill a character that we don’t care about yet? Riggs manages to make us care, just enough, about the tragedy that ignites the plot, and Jacob’s journey from his somnolent beach town to the peculiar and fantastic island is a rewarding reading experience. His characters, though not always fleshed out, are funny and real enough for the reader to engage with. Jacob in particular can be a treat. His dry wit leads to some moments of dark humour. Moody teenagers will love this story.
It’s the little moments that make Riggs’ novel shine. Like when, caught in a hurry, the peculiar children leave poor Olive, the levitating girl, strapped to a chair in the dining room. Somebody runs back for her – and you can just hear the audience of Tim Burton’s upcoming adaptation laughing. Sometimes it’s relatable, and that’s what fantasy should be: Riggs’ ideas on a Before and After are something all of us can relate to, and it’s interesting to read how Jacob deals with the tragic event that befalls him. We’ve all been there.
The vintage photographs, the primary source of plot, according to the author, are the driving force behind the story. As good as his prose is, the book sells because it’s full of creepy visuals. And that’s nothing to be ashamed of. The images accompany the setting to add an element of realism: you read it and wonder whether these children do exist somewhere in the world, at the fringes of our reality. It’s this sense of creepiness, so well captured by Riggs that should be reason enough to read the novel. It’s unique. It’s done well. And it’s not that long a novel by Fantasy’s standards.
One character in particularly deserves a special mention. Miss Peregrine herself, soon to be played by the talented Eva Green, is an interesting one. Perhaps the most fleshed out character and yet the least fleshed out, she is everything a character should be: intriguing, mysterious, precarious. Unfortunately, many of her peculiar children are inconsistent, some of them even disappointing in their peculiarity. Mild spoiler to follow: the children are sometimes jarring in their strange modernity, and should have been written to be more representative of their time.
The filmic quality of the novel makes it perfect for Tim Burton’s direction, and we’ll see a March 2016 release for his take on the story. It’s creepy, honest and fuses reality and fantasy with maturity. But read it first – enjoy the feel of those creepy photographs on your fingertips (unless you’re on the Kindle), sink into Jacob Portman’s mind and experience the magic. Why? Tim Burton has seen better days, and don’t you want to be one of those ‘Well she looked different in the photograph!’ kind of people?