Fiction: “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” by Ransom Riggs

PeculiarSo I actually had half this post already written up the other night, and I left it up at 11:30 p.m. so I could go to bed.  I said, “I’ll finish it tomorrow.”

Well, sometime between 11:30 p.m. Monday and yesterday at 9:30 p.m., my laptop rebooted and I lost the post.  And because WordPress doesn’t have an autosave feature, here I am back at the beginning.

(I mean seriously, WordPress: even fucking LiveJournal has an autosave feature.)

I picked up Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children out of a form of gentle peer pressure by my Collaborator cohort, Erica of NYC Bookworm.  She had read this title when it came out a couple of years ago (and here’s the link to her review for it), and the sequel was published in January, and she really wanted me to read the first one so she and I could Collaborate on the sequel.

So when I finally paid my overdue fine at the Portland Library (it’s only been a year, thank god libraries don’t charge interest.  DON’T LET LIBRARIES CHARGE INTEREST, YOU GUYS), I picked up the book from my local branch.  And while I was able to finish it before January 31 (4 books in January, bitches!  Not my best January on record, but my best in recent years!  I’ve already read more books than I did in all of January and February last year), I was unable to finish it in time to get a free copy of the sequel for myself and Erica to Collaborate on.  Because while I know there’s a very famous quote about preferring to starve because one spends all one’s money on books, the fact of the matter is that for nearly the entire month of January, I had at any given time a total of twenty dollars to my name on which I could spend on myself.  That’s after all my bills, rent, and gas for my car.  And while my parents live close, I can’t eat dinner with them every night.  So, books will have to wait until after I get my sweet, sweet tax money.  (And even that will go mostly towards bills.)

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a young adult novel that follows the coming-of-age of Jacob Portman, whose grandfather was once a ward of the titular home.  Growing up, his grandfather would tell Jacob tales of monsters and the “peculiar children” — kids who could levitate, or lift extremely heavy boulders.  When his grandfather dies, Jacob is unsure of the cause of death: authorities claim it was a heart attack, but Jacob swears he could see an evil beast in the bushes …

This doubt and additional photographs and letters from Grandpa’s “peculiar children” lead Jacob and his father to Wales, the supposed site of Miss Peregrine’s home.  When he comes across the old house, it has been blown to bits after the Blitz.  (alliteration FTW!)  Until he stumbles through a cairn and learns the secret: the home is stuck in a time loop for the protection of its inhabitants.

Once he crosses the time loop, he meets Miss Peregrine (who remembers his grandfather vividly); Emma, the girl that can control and create fire; Millard, the invisible boy; and countless others.  He takes a few days and ditches his father in “real-time,” becomes enmeshed with the peculiars, and eventually decides to leave his father to help save the peculiars and Miss Peregrine from the villain of the piece.

I don’t want to get too much into the plot on this one, because I think it’s the type of book where you don’t want to know too much before you go in.  What I did like about the book is that it’s one of the few  young adult novels I’ve read where the protagonist is a young man instead of a young woman.  And, similar to YA novels with a female protagonist, Jacob is struggling to find his place in the world; he doesn’t feel he belongs with his parents (who don’t understand him), but he also doesn’t want to completely sever that relationship.  Even when he leaves his father to go with Emma and the rest of the children, he says that he’ll be gone for a while, leaving it open-ended for him to return.

I think it’s a story that anyone can relate to, on that level – the level without the invisible monsters and levitating children.  I also appreciated that, while Jacob has a love interest, it isn’t a love triangle (although I’m sure that is debatable, but considering the hypotenuse is dead, go ahead and debate me, Ken Ham, I’ll prove you wrong with SCIENCE).  And even that love … er, line, I guess, is not given a lot of screentime.  (I feel like I could make another geometry joke here, but I think I’m being too obtuse to find it.)

jon stewart boom
I guess, in the end, I liked it, but it wasn’t enough to make me effusive about it.  (I can also tell this because I started re-writing this review at 6:30, and between breaks for shoveling, talking with the landlady, and copious procrastination through that wonderful medium known as the internet, it is now 11 p.m. and I really need to go to bed.)  I liked Miss Peregrine’s, and I’ll probably read the sequel at some point, but I don’t think I’ll be lining up for a midnight release of the inevitable third installment (because all young adult novels must be turned into trilogies.  It’s right there in the copyright bylines).

Grade for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children: 3 stars

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