Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (@RansomRiggs @QuirkBooks)

So in all my blog hopping madness today [which has been SO much fun — I’m probably following a couple dozen new blogs now, and gained a nice handful of followers myself! Thanks, Parajunkee and Alison Can Read!] I came across a review for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children over on Movies In My Head. And that reminded me that I, too, read this book recently, and it is so good. And kind of creepy. And decidedly unique. And now I want to talk about it too.

What It’s About

Miss Peregrine’s is the story of Jacob, a teenage boy living a normal life, until the mysterious and horrific death of his grandfather sends him across the ocean, to a tiny island off the coast of Wales, to discover the truth of his grandfather’s past.

What he finds on the island only seeks to arouse his curiosity further: An orphanage secluded from the rest of the world. A tragic bombing that wiped it off the face of the earth. A town that refuses to talk about it.

As Jacob digs deeper into the tragic past of Miss Peregrine’s orphanage, more and more questions arise, until finally he makes a shocking discovery. Soon Jacob is caught up in an incredible — and peculiar — adventure he never even dreamed of.

Here, before I get to my thoughts, watch the book trailer. It’s probably the best book trailer I’ve seen. Period.:

What I Thought

[I am going to have to get into mild spoiler territory here. I’ve been pondering how to avoid it, and I just can’t. It’s alluded to very early in the book though, and I don’t think your enjoyment will be lessened knowing this in advance. Even so, my apologies.]

First off, this book is nothing like what I expected (I should mention that I checked it out from the library as an e-book, so I didn’t know that it’s typically classified — mis-classified, in my humble opinion — in the horror genre). I thought it was going to be a bittersweet story of a young boy digging into his grandfather’s tragic past, and learning a valuable lesson. I knew creepy vintage photos were incorporated, but I figured they’d be like a metaphor for the way his grandfather had tried to dress up what had happened to him, to make it all seem magical and mysterious instead of just sad and depressing.

Because I was thinking that “tragic past” meant something like “Holocaust survivor.” I was pretty sure monsters = Nazis.

But no. Monsters = freakin’ monsters.

This story is full of fantasy, magic, and unexpected twists and turns that totally blew my mind. I had no idea where it was going, and when I turned the last page, I found myself dumbly attempting to flip another non-existent page, and yelling, “that’s it?!

Needless to say, I sincerely hope Mr. Riggs goes forward with the sequel(s).

What makes Miss Peregrine’s even more interesting is the vintage photography that is incorporated into the story. Authentic (yes, they’re real!) and decidedly creepy photos are woven seamlessly into the narrative, adding a level of realism and creepiness that both grounds the story and enhances its impact.

It’s not without its flaws. It is a little slow to get moving. Jacob spends a good chunk of time on the island before anything really happens. But once it took off, I couldn’t put it down.

Keep in mind, I definitely think it’s mis-classified as horror. It’s much closer to YA/mid-grade fantasy. I think the cover misleads people (bad font choice, publisher). I don’t think the intent of the book is to scare the reader; I think it’s to enthrall and amaze. So there are a lot of people out there who are kind of peeved that this book “wasn’t scary enough.” I’m obviously not one of them. No, it’s not scary. It’s creepy (which can be attributed largely to the photos), but mostly it’s just a fantastical adventure story.

Content guide: Contains violence and some scenes of overall creepiness. Plus creepy photos.

10 thoughts on “Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (@RansomRiggs @QuirkBooks)

  1. I loved this one, too. I must admit, I saw the whole “there’s a character who isn’t what you think he/she is” thing coming. Overall though – great set up for a series. I hope he has enough creepy photos for it to all play out. Maybe I’ve been reading books so long, I’m just no longer surprised about things. Still, overall enjoyable and fantastic adventure.

    • I think I read an article…or saw an interview…or something….where he said that he has a ton of photos. He used what made sense for the story for the first book, but I think he still has a ton for sequels.

      Of course there’s also the definite possibility that I dreamed that.

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  3. I still have yet to read this one, but I’m fascinated with the author’s collection of chilling old photographs. I’ve even started to collect my own. I’ll try my best to start this one as soon as I have some free time. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  4. I’ve wanted to pick this up, but since I’m a complete wuss when it comes to horror I’ve never been brave enough. You say this is mis-categorized as horror, does that mean it won’t be completely frightening?

    Hopefully not, because after this review I’m gonna have to pick it up!

    • It’s definitely not horror, more fantasy. There are a couple semi-frightening scenes and a feeling of general uneasiness for some of the book, but overall it’s really very mild. I wish they’d change the cover and move it to a different part of the store so it stops turning away the fantasy people and disappointing the horror ones!

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