I picked up Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children because the sequel is coming out soon and I was curious. Before I started reading it, I asked if any of my colleagues had read it, most had not. But those few who had, said it was rather weird. I don’t really know what my expectations for this novel (which is often shelved in YA, but is perfectly at home in adult as well) were, but it wasn’t like anything I expected. Most of the novel is set in present day, but there’s some time travel involved (but I won’t tell you when, because that’ll spoil the surprise).
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is the story of a teenage boy, Jacob Portman. He is the main character as well as the narrator, but he’s not the most important character in the novel. That honor goes to his grandfather Abe. We meet Abe just briefly in the beginning of novel, introducing us to a fantastical world of children who have strange powers. Jacob soon learns that this world is all in his grandfather’s head (it’s a world created to deal with his grandfather’s demons that came from escaping Poland and fighting Nazis). Of course, just when I was convinced this book wasn’t going anywhere exciting (or we were doomed to read about his grandfather’s life), everything changes — which in turn makes the book quite hard to put down.
Jacob’s grandfather is killed and he must come to terms with several things. The first, of course, is his sanity because he was there when his grandfather died, basically in his arms. The second (which is tied to the first) is the fact that everything he’s been told is a mixture of lies at the truth. The answers that Jacob seeks lead him to an island in Wales and this is where the real adventures begin.
I can understand where my colleagues who found the book weird were coming from — I was reading it at night and freaked myself out because it is rather scary (in a fun sort of way, though — at least somewhere in the middle, it gets dark near the end). But I’ve read much weirder (and scarier) stuff in the past. The book is illustrated with photographs (all of which are real and credited in the back of the book), such as the one to the right. Some of them are perfectly normal, some are slightly creepy (such as the two girls) and others are mildly disturbing — but all of them are equally important to the story itself.
Throughout the novel, Jacob talks about pictures he sees — and those are the photographs that are included in the novel. They play several important roles in the novel, as you’ll read. I like that Riggs included the photographs because they make the story more real (even as it’s a strongly paranormal and fantasy book) . I liked the characters, they were mostly well thought out and interesting, even the ones we end up hating. And while the most important character, Abe, is dead for most of the novel — his presence is always there. It’s what keeps Jacob going and what, in the end, informs many of his decisions. His relationship with his grandfather is a good, strong one, in spite of the adversity that kept them apart as Jacob grew up.
I also need to give Riggs credit for creating a rich, brash boy in Jacob and managing to make him exceptionally sympathetic. Jacob can be rich, spoiled and rude — but at the same time, he’s sensitive and caring (only he doesn’t always realize this). He’s an interesting main character and I like the way Riggs gives him depth, instead of letting his wealth define him.
Overall, I enjoyed the book a lot. It isn’t scary like a horror novel, but it is tense in all the right ways. It’s a good YA/adult crossover book that I think can be enjoyed by middle and high school students as well as adults of any age. Although I’ve labeled in paranormal and fantasy, it’s often shelved in regular fiction, so that makes it a good crossover book for people who aren’t into fantasy or paranormal novels.