‘Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children’ by Ransom Riggs

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Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Wouldn’t it be weird if one of the photographs in the book turned out to be of your granny?

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

A mysterious island.

An abandoned orphanage.

A strange collection of very curious photographs.

It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s 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 Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may 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.

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows

The idea was intriguing; vintage photographs used to perpetuate the aesthetic off an otherwise traditional novel. Even the story concept has a unique, gothicy feel. If they had blended together this could’ve been fantastic; all the potential is there. Unfortunately, I don’t think the merging of these formats worked too well most of the time. Instead of the pictures strengthening the plot, the story bends-over-backwards to accommodate the photos. As strangely beautiful as they are, some of the photographs become distracting, having been forced into a plot without necessity. Riggs does form great characters from the materials he’s found. The peculiar children are particularly well handled and varied, if a touch underdeveloped, and some of the pictures helped to fortify their identities, and aided the imagination in constructing their odd appearances. Ultimately, this is what spurred me through the book, the want to know more about this strange, well-imagined people. It’s a shame Riggs doesn’t do more with it.

Personally I didn’t connect with the plot; I wanted and expected something a lot different. The story took sometime to really get going, but picks up when Jacob, our reluctant protagonist, reaches Wales. For a brief time real mystery shrouded his movements, I wanted to know what he wanted to know, and I adored the descriptions of the rural island, and the decrepit house. Unfortunately, the thrill is quickly lost to the ensuing adventure. The adventure is by no means bad, but the tone of the book, so well-established, is replaced by a more whimsical treatment of the subject matter, which conflicts not only with what has gone before, but also the vintage photographs. The underlying issues driving the story became too convoluted for my tastes, and the focus shifts away from what interested me. The action moments are superbly crafted; Riggs can use large numbers of characters well in these instances, keeping everyone in an important role. He especially uses the children and their powers well, and I loved these moments, but overall the plotline didn’t inspire me.

Perhaps there will be a sequel? The ending doesn’t necessarily give rise for one, but there is great opportunity to extend the work in doing so. All respect to Mr Riggs for his ambitious project; I’d say the book is worth reading simply for his unique presentation of the novel, and the characters derived from the photography.

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