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Book Review – Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children

Why must all books have a crazy long title? What’s wrong with a single word? Or at least something short enough to fit on one line for reviewers. Consideration. That’s all I’m asking for.

Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs has been hyped all over the internet recently and with the film adaptation due out this year, I thought it was time I read it.

missperegrine“A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of peculiar photographs. It all waits to be discovered in ‘Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children’, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen year old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its decaying bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that Miss peregrine’s children were more than just peculiar. They have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow – impossible though it seems – they may still be alive.” – That is a long winded blurb.

Wow this book is heavy! I mean physically, this is a heavy book. I get paperbacks because they are easier to cart around on buses and trains and to work and stuff, but even in paperback this was crazy heavy.

I hate to say it, but I think this is one of those occasions where the subject has been over-hyped. It started off well, there was exposition and character introductions and mystery and all those other things people want from the beginning of their books, unfortunately I feel that it just didn’t deliver to the end. The language style is a lovely mix of old and new and sort of reminded me of turn of the century classics, from that point of view, it’s a pleasure to read.

The main character is a spoilt rich kid, who very few people would be able to relate to. If that was the point I’d let it go, but I don’t think that it was. He meanders through the book, always getting his own way and constantly moaning about it. It’s infuriating. Upon discovering the mysteries of the titular house, we, the reader, are granted no answers as to how such feats are possible or what laws govern these ‘peculiar’ people. Apart from the knowledge that only birds can control it. To which my audible answer was “but why?”. Nothing is explained and nothing makes sense. At one point Miss Peregrine talks about the ’empirical laws that govern everything’ but never expands further than that, we are just left to wonder what these laws could be and who wrote them. The whole thing feels underdeveloped and a little bit rushed. As does the romantic element of the story, which I think is also just a little bit weird if I’m honest. No spoilers, but I’d be weirded out if it was me.

The text-and-photograph thing is a nice idea, a multimedia platform in one place, to make the story come to life. There were places were it worked and places where it really didn’t. Where the characters were having a nice chat and all of sudden the author realised he hadn’t used a visual aid in a while and squeezed a ‘she opened the photo album she had bought with her’ into the sentence, it didn’t flow well and jarred with the story.

As a British reader, I noticed a few things that annoyed me, factual inaccuracies and colloquialisms that were just plain wrong; we take THE piss. Taking A piss is something very different (page 129). Overall I think the story had potential, it just needed fleshing out a bit more with some explanation. Maybe these are presented in the sequels? I gave it three stars, It’s not terrible, it just didn’t live up to expectations.

3/5 ***

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