BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A teen boy learns the tall tales his grandfather told him as a boy were true.
PROS: Character growth; creepily atmospheric; high-quality physical book; creatively meshes backstory with mythology and history.
CONS: Reader doesn’t learn as much about the kids as you’d like; doesn’t fully explain their abilities or why they’re born as they are.
BOTTOM LINE: A slow, atmospheric work that adults and teens will love.
If ever there were an argument against ebooks, it would be Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Yes, you can read it on an ereader, and yes, the story would still be creepy and fun, but you’d miss something about the experience. This is a beautiful hardcover, with thick pages and gorgeous black and white photographs scattered throughout. Holding it and turning the pages is part of the ambiance the story creates.
WIthin it, Jakob Portman grew up hearing his grandfather’s fantastic stories about the children’s home he was sent to in England as a Jewish Polish immigrant in World War II. The stories were about children who could do peculiar things, like levitate, hold fire and lift very heavy things. But the violent death of his grandfather, along with the old man’s last words, make him wonder if there was some truth to his stories.
This is a slow paced coming of age story. Mr. Riggs takes time to develop Jakob as a character, especially regarding his mental state, as well as the settings, in the book.
At first glance, the children seem like X-Men rip offs. They’re said to be the next step in evolution and have different, extraordinary abilities. But while some of the abilities are useful, others – like having 2 mouths or bees living inside your body – are not at first glance advantageous. And while one group of peculiars thinks it would be grand to use their abilities to subjugate normals, the rest simply want to live in peace.
I loved how the author amalgamated their existence with history as witches, changelings and circus performers. It gave the book a sense of history, and the kids a practical reason to hide.
The downside of the novel is that you don’t learn as much as you’d like about certain things: the kids (their histories and abilities), how the loops work and why people are born peculiar. I’d love to see Riggs bring out a book of the grandfather’s stories or a photo album of Miss Peregrine’s home, with the stories of how each child came to be there.
There seems to be a move in SF towards the reimagining of history with a horror slant. While Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children is mostly set in the present, it reminded me of Eutopia by David Nickle and Mr. Shivers by Robert Jackson Bennett.
This is an open ended novel with series potential. It’s a slow, atmospheric work that adults and teens will love.