This week I’ll be talking about a more light-hearted novel intended for a younger audience. But don’t let that alone turn you away from this mysterious and oddly enrapturing tale. This week I’m discussing Randal Riggs’ Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.
Now, unless you haven’t ventured into a book store or movie theater in years, you’ve probably already heard of this story before. It received a lot of attention when first published, is part of a larger series now, and has a movie adapted from it (which sucks!). But perhaps you’re wondering what all the hub-bub is about for a book with a levitating girl on the cover, yes? Allow me to whet your appetite.
Our protagonist is a 15–soon to be 16–year old boy who lives in Englewood, Florida. He’s grown up with parents, a best friend, aunts and uncles, but his favorite person of all is his grandfather. His grandfather tells stories about when he was younger, the odd boarding house he stayed in, and the war he fought in, all with pictures to back it up. But after Jacob’s grandfather dies, rather violently, Jacob is thrust into a past that is also his future but certainly not the present. He’s thrown into a not-so-typical YA adventure plot that takes him all over the world, and all through time.
PLOT: The overarching plot of this story is almost painfully obvious. By the end of the 2nd chapter I was already calling what the end would be, what the next twist was, who the ultimate antagonist was, etc. The main parts of the story are so obviously foreshadowed, they’re telegraphed. It’s hard NOT to anticipate what will happen next. At least for the main story. But each character’s development, how they interacted, and where some of them ended up I couldn’t predict. Bottom line: this feels like one of the first times Randal Riggs wrote out a full novel and plotted it. The hallmarks, the pacing, the markers signalling the next phase of the plot; they’re all too new, as if Riggs doesn’t have much experience with them. But one of the coolest features of this book are the photos. Riggs searched high a low for all kinds of creepy photos to use for his book, and he did an excellent job. Even if you don’t read it, flip through the book sometime. The photos alone will intrigue you.
CHARACTERS: These characters were quite good. Each was encapsulated in their own personalities and traits. Their dialogue was, for the most part, very natural. Their interactions with each other felt authentic and not forced, again, for the most part. The antagonists were good, as well. They weren’t full blown evil, which is what I was hoping for, but they had believable motivations and strengths. I also enjoyed each character’s story. While there is the larger, general story of the novel that links all events together, each character seemed to have their own purpose/story to tell within the larger story. And they did so brilliantly.
SETTING: I give the settings and their descriptions a thumbs up. Though at times I noticed another feature of a first time author: over description. One thing newer writers tend to do, and I’ve done this myself A LOT, is to over describe their settings. As the author, they have the mental image of what they want the reader to see in their mind. When they write, they try to describe that mental image as much as possible, clarifying as many things as they can. They want the reader’s mental image to reflect their mental image in perfection, so they explain every minute detail about a place, boring the reader and taking up 3 whole pages. The sign of an experienced, well-published author is that they can sum up a setting’s description, wholly and completely, in a few sentences, if not one sentence. It’s certainly not easy, but it makes your writing stand apart.
MISCELLANEOUS: Before I drop my verdict I wanted to highlight two other aspects of this writing: Style and adaptation. The writing style of this novel was, and I can’t stress this enough, fantastic. Yes, the content and story had negatives, but there was something about Riggs’ style of writing that captured me. I read this book in less than a week, and not because I was invested in the story. When looking at this book you would not be wrong in assuming it’s for young adults. But the vocabulary, sentence structure, and inner monologues were definitely not for young adults. I was, and still am, very impressed with the writing style. Now, adaptation, which deals strictly with the movie. The movie for this novel is a horrible, no good, awful excuse at adaptation. Yes, Eva Green (Miss Peregrine’s actress) is an incredibly attractive actress (and I mean, incredibly attractive).
And yes, Samuel Jackson (the antagonist) is always a crowd favorite.
Heck, even Dame Judy Dench is in this movie! But even with those A-list actors the movie is a steaming pile of donkey dung. Please remember: avoid movie at all costs. AVOID.
VERDICT: You read all of my criteria? You stuck around all the way to the end of the review? Good. Then you already know what I’m going to say. In my opinion, you should read this novel. It’s not going to take you long, the combination of exciting action and good writing will help you finish it in no time. You’re on your own if you wish to explore the rest of the series, though. But we should all be able to agree that this first novel, at least, is a fantastic read.