Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
The monochromatic cover was mystifying enough: in the middle stands a lone girl that, when looked at closely, appears to be levitating. I’d like to have that ghoulish girl in my shelf, I told myself and that’s how I discovered Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (aka Ms. Peregrine’s) and all its morbidity.
As a kid, Jacob formed a special bond with his grandfather over his bizarre tales and photos of levitating girls and invisible boys. Now, he is reeling from the old man’s unexpected death. Then Jacob is given a mysterious letter that propels him on a journey to the remote Welsh island where his grandfather grew up. There, he finds the children from the photographs–alive and well–despite the islanders’ assertion that all were killed decades ago. As Jacob begins to unravel more about his grandfather’s childhood, he suspects he is being trailed by a monster only he can see.
Ms. Peregrine’s uses vintage pictures to give the whole novel an eerie feel, like those times when you catch something strange in camera and tell about it to your friends and then the ghost stories begin. It’s exciting to turn the page and suddenly find weird pictures. The author originally intended to make a picture book out of a collection of photographs but was advised to use them to form a narrative, thus, Ms. Peregrine’s. Learning this made me appreciate the story and even more, the images. I just find it awesome that the pictures came first before the story and the whole creative process in it. Without the pictures, there won’t be any story; and without the story, they’re just plain, old pictures—I just love how the relationship balances the whole idea.
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 into halves: Before and After.
The narrative was as beautiful as the style. It isn’t because the words were as poetic as, let’s say, The Great Gatsby’s or maybe as heart-stomping super intense like Dan Brown’s. The narrator just seemed old enough to blurb about his crumbling childhood and the solemn life of adulthood; he was a fountain of wisdom and he must be very old to have reached something close to enlightenment. Jacob’s story-telling is rather bleak and plain sad at times. He has the wisdom of an adult and the little enchantment of a child which continues to decrease as the story turns. Which is why it shouldn’t be surprising he’s 16 years old. 16 years make you philosophical and angry. I learned that myself.
The story was interesting at first with Jacob describing his grandpa’s stories and when he starts playing detective around. I especially like the island folks. They were caricatures of a tired, old town that haven’t seen anything interesting so far. Unfortunately, the story quickly went downhill after Jacob discovered the entire plot and the next becomes predictable. Even Jacob’s narration sounded bored to me, like, ‘This is what happened. Okay, get it? This what happens next,’ and so on and so forth.
Jacob and the plot felt detached, even Jacob to the other characters. The characters were forgettable and it felt like I’ve read them somewhere. I immediately disliked the romance bit, which seemed forced and just out-of-place. I still don’t understand why a girl, a boy and romance must come as an inseparable trio. It rather made me afraid that this book would turn out like the others (it has too much potential) if it were not for the pictures, the narration, and the ghoulish girl on the cover. I expected so much in this girl yet disappointingly, she stayed true to her picture and did the only thing she was known as: a balloon, practically her character in the novel.
The most memorable thing about the novel is Jacob’s difficult relationship between him and his parents. His father, particularly. He tries to be an understanding son while his dad cries over a bunch of birds while knowing that the world is soon to be annihilated by experimental, most especially evil, shapeshifters. The relationship felt awkward but real. The strained talks, the lying, his father trying too hard to be a good dad (and fails tremendously) and the realization that his father will never understand him added complexity in this otherwise predictable novel.
Though Ms. Peregrine falls at the plot (and its peculiarity), it’s nevertheless a mixture of mystery and magic, and the bonus– a teenager’s struggles in finding one’s identity and facing one’s fears; that there are important decisions to make in life which may require sacrifices and terrifying obstacles to go through, but then, it’s what makes life extraordinary. Jacob is just beginning to take that step and I’d like to read what he’d be discovering from now on.
“Stars, too, were time travelers. How many of those ancient points of light were the last echoes of suns now dead? How many had been born but their light not yet come this far? If all the suns but ours collapsed tonight, how many lifetimes would it take us to realize we were alone? I had always known the sky was full of mysteries—but not until now had I realized how full of them the earth was.”