|Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
||[Dec. 21st, 2011|09:16 am]
International Bon Vivant and Raconteur
An orphanage filled with children who possess supernatural powers. Shadowy man-eating monsters with tentacles for mouths. Intelligent birds that can control time. And some of the weirdest vintage photographs you've ever seen. These are some of the delights that await readers in Ransom Riggs' darkly fantastic novel Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.
Sixteen-year-old Jacob has grown up listening to the tall tales of his grandfather Abe, colorful stories of a mysterious island, "peculiar" children, and monsters. Though entertained and fascinated by these stories, Jacob never truly believed them, not even when his grandfather would show him old (and clearly fake, he thinks) pictures of invisible boys and floating girls. But when Abe dies under mysterious circumstances and Jacob sees a creature near Abe's body that seems to have come right out of one of his stories, he starts to wonder if maybe they weren't fabrications after all. Convincing his father to take him to the little island off the coast of Wales where Abe grew up, Jacob finds the old, empty, bombed-out house from his grandfather's stories, as well as more old photographs that seem to prove Abe wasn't lying about his supernaturally powerful friends. Also proving Abe wasn't lying? The children themselves, who haven't aged for over seventy years, and their caretaker, Miss Peregrine, all hidden away from their monstrous enemies in a pocket outside of time. Unfortunately, by coming to the island Jacob may have accidentally led the monsters right to them.
Peregrine is an extremely fun read for anyone who enjoys fantasy and horror. It's also exceptionally well written. Riggs cut his teeth as a travel writer and filmmaker, but with the exception of a few places in the novel where the prose was clearly dumbed down for younger readers (the book is intended for ages 13 and up), you'd think Riggs had been publishing novels for years now. As great as the story and its characters are, though, half the fun of the novel is in the "peculiar" photographs reprinted throughout the book: a scrawny boy effortlessly lifting a massive boulder, a man with a mouth in the back of his head, and other human oddities. Riggs claims the photos were all found in flea markets and yard sales and that almost all of them are unaltered for the book. While I have my doubts about that, the photographs add a wonderful extra dimension to the story--though Riggs' narration becomes slightly ham-handed every time he segues into mentions of the photographs when simply including the photo would have sufficed. By the tenth time you read, "I remembered the photo from Miss Peregrine's book," you'll wish Riggs had trusted a little more that his readers would grow to accept the presence of the photographs in the text.
Riggs ends the novel on a note that clearly signals more adventures to come. I was very happy to hear that, because I'd love to spend more time with these characters and the world they inhabit. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is one of the most creative books I've read in a while, and one of the best novels I've read this year.