May 19, 2012

Review: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

By: Ransom Riggs
Published: June 2011 by Quirk Books
Format: Hardback, 349 pages
First Reviewed: June 2011
Buy: Barnes & Noble//Books-A-Million//Amazon//Book Depository
Add it on Goodreads

A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of very peculiar 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.

Rating: 4/5

If you've been following my blog at all these past couple months, you'd know that this book is one I've been obsessing over. Yes, obsessing, and I hadn't even read it. I called all the bookstores in my town after it came out, but none of them had it, but then I went to Barnes & Noble a couple days ago and there it was! Sitting there, waiting for me, I just know it! haha! I for real gasped out loud and said, "Yes!" Luckily no one was around. Anyway, this book was just the type of read I've been waiting for. The kind that brings back the sense of adventure and mystery that would take me away for hours and hours as a kid. Mind you, this is not a kid's book, but I'll explain more in a second.

After reading so many YA books, I thought there was only a few different types of writing. Literary (the ones who get nominated for those awards is how I like to think of those types), commercial (the majority of YA, in my opinion, with the same writing, only different tones, pretty much), and the commercial-literary with refreshing writing that still appeals to the commercial crowd. However, Riggs's writing doesn't fall into any of those categories. He's one of the very few unique writers in YA. He has the sort of voice that literally transports you into the story, and it reminded so much of the narrations from childhood. There was just this magic about it. I don't even know how to explain it. How he managed to put an ageless voice, yet proper teen one at the same time to Jacob was something we don't see anymore.

As for prose and dialogue, all was done extremely well. The dialogue was believable, which was hard to pull off with so many different accents and dialects. The prose was subtle and perfect for this type of book. The descriptions simple, yet very affective. There was the right amount of detail and frankly, the writing overall was just refreshing and so different compared to all of the other YA reads.

Every so often there are authors who do something so creative that no one has really done before. If they have, I haven't read or seen a book like that. Riggs took old photographs (eek! I'll gush about those later) and put fully-developed characters to them. First, of course, we have Jacob, who isn't from an old photograph, but was fully-developed and had the voice that I used to love, love, love reading. Like a character from a middle grade book grew up and told this story. He was in no way, shape, or form like other MCs in YA today. Such a refreshing lead.

Then we have the peculiar children. All with intriguing and unique peculiar abilities. I won't say who does what, but I'll give an example. The girl on the cover was in the story, as Olive, an adorable, spunky little thing. Emma, our female lead, wasn't like the other female YA leads either. Instead of distracting from the story, we had a solid, innocent connection between her and Jacob, that only added to the story. She was a very interesting and different personality that I really enjoyed. As for Miss Peregrine, I thought the characterization of her was fantastic. Riggs shied away from using stereotypes with her while keeping her a strong leader.

Other major-minor and minor characters were also just as fully-developed. All of their parts adding to the story in more ways than one. They brought certain tones to this, conflicts, and made for a very interesting contrast to where the peculiar home is and the rest of the island. Overall, I really, really loved the characters and how creative Riggs was with them, bringing back the middle-grade characterization that I used to love so much and miss now-a-day.

Now the plot. Yesssss! I think this calls for a celebration. I've been mentioning childhood and middle grade a bit, so now I shall explain better. When was the last time you read a MG book? Try to think back to the books you read when you were about 7-10. Remember how those plots whisked you away into another world? How they sent you on adventures where you felt alive again? Where books really did feel like magic? How often do you get that feeling now, when you read YA or adult? If you're like me, you'll get invested in a story, you'll fall in love with characters, feel like you're a part of the plot, but you won't get that same feeling like you did when you were younger. That's what it's like for me, until this book.

Again, this is not a MG book. The main characters are teenagers, there is a bit of cursing (not a lot at all), and some of the violent bits would be too much for a kid, methinks. But this brought that feeling soaring back. I don't remember how long its been since I literally had my face inches from a page, so involved in the story that I didn't think about anything else. It gave me that feeling of being free again.

From the beginning, we're introduced to this solid narration, this solid character, this solid, seemingly normal life of Jacob, a rich kid with a grandpa who used to tell him stories that end up being more true that Jacob could have ever imagined. Just that part there, the way it was told, had me in its clutches. And as the story unfolded, as the mystery and adventure grew more and more complex, I was just there. It was like magic.

Not to mention the pictures. The pictures! They were just so...amazing. Real photographs Riggs collected and put characters and a story to. So believable in its own right. Remember how you used to wish the worlds in books were real? I don't mean now, when we're like, "Dang! I wish that really existed!" But when we were little and we used to dream about things being real and wishing so much that we could enter that place too? That's how this was. It's one of those books that I think fifty, maybe even a hundred years from now, will be a YA classic.

Other: Hissed! Again! What in the world is going on? Maybe I'm just paying attention to that word now...either way, it's amusing. Also, I've heard this has been optioned by a film company (not sure which) and while I'm normally 100% against books-to-movies (I'm so tired of everything trying to compete against Twilight and that mess...ugh), I think this would be the one to look out for. If they stay true to the essence of the book and don't set out to be the next whatever, I think we'll have a new generation of magical movie/book series. But I'm still nervous. Oh great, I just made myself even more nervous. And one more thing: I wish we would have met the ballerinas. No spoilers, you'll understand if you read this.

After finishing this, I've realized I was completely in the right for being obsessed with this book. I wish I could have gotten my hands on it sooner, even though it just came out not too long ago. It was a completely magnificent read full of adventure and peculiar things that just made it such a breath of fresh air. For a book to bring me back to that old mindset of childhood, where anything was possible, I'm incredibly grateful.

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