Monday, 28 October 2013

Ransom Riggs' 'Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children'

Just so you know; this one may contain light-medium spoilers, so read at your own risk.

I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen. The first of these came as a terrible shock and, like anything that changes you forever, split my life in halves: Before and After. (p.12)
A young boy of sixteen, Jakob Portman comes face to face with something horrific to himself that changes him forever, so much so that he splits a life that he once thought ordinary into Before (before the incident) and After (obviously after the incident). This incident is his grandfather’s death, which not only swallows him up but spits him out as he uncovers more about his grandfather’s past and the truth of the orphanage’s occupants his grandfather had resided in. As Jakob travels to find out about the orphanage on an island that is as though time forgot it, his grandfather’s past seeps  into Jakob’s present in not only extraordinary, but eerie ways (for the history of the novel you could call them peculiar attributes, but the modern world would just call them super powers).
‘Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children’ is targeted towards younger readers in high school, so if you are going to read this book it won’t scream ‘Stephen King horror’ to you, but eerie may come across for younger readers through the use of old photographs strewn throughout and elements of the death of his grandfather and what comes after. In terms of this Halloween showcase: it doesn’t live up to other big-named writers (bear in mind this is also Riggs’ first novel), but the tension does exist for the characters, and the weaknesses of Jakob add to his terrifying moments across the book (you should note that the cover screams horror more than the contents). However, this is for younger readers so they may find it more chilling than the everyday adult.
I did enjoy the old photographs throughout this book. They add an element that makes this book unique, and some of the photos definitely give off a creepy vibe for modern audiences. What should be noted about these photographs that Riggs collected is that though they are to add to the story, photos that are of the ‘same child’ are literally not, and some of the characters mentioned who are given photographs do not appear in the book. Whilst the photos being unmatched can annoy readers, they have from collections Riggs had borrowed from, which explains the anomalies. So while this quality may annoy some readers, I actually took this on board and understood what he was attempting to do so that I was only slightly bothered by the changes of faces. However, these images are quaint and I enjoyed the aspect in this novel. Images of characters not mentioned was a little more frustrating; however, as a sequel is to come, they may be mentioned or brought into the story again so as not just unused threads from this storyline.
I am assuming you think this is all negative (it has probably sounded as such: I’ve removed the horror and the images), but I did enjoy this book and I enjoyed the elements of history and modernity entwining into each other. It was sweet and there was a little tension in regards to the budding romance between Jakob and Emma Bloom (considering she was once Jakob’s grandfather’s ex-girlfriend). Again, the tension was easily overcome by these teenagers, and it was strange that the children for the decades they had remained children 9some are over 100 years old) still thought and acted just like children; instead of maturing or going mad. Yet in this fashion, Riggs has catered for his readership who if had matured too much would not have been as relatable.
This book was interesting, but for me very horror-lite as I was never tense with fear as after the initial death it seemed to peter out, even though Jakob still tried to deal with his tensions in a much more tangible way (his fears and weaknesses were prominent enough for me to believe that). This book will also recall ‘X-Men’ in part, even with its modern-historical narratives crossing over. For all this (and again I know it sounds very negative), I liked it as I took it for what it was: a young adult novel hopefully tense enough to encourage readers and involve them in the strongly developed characters that appear in the book, to not only read this one but the upcoming sequel ‘Hollow City’.

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