Series: 1st of at least two
Release Date: June 7, 2011
Received: ARC from publisher
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
A mysterious island.
An abandoned orphanage.
A strange collection of very curious photographs.
It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.
A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.
I thought this was a Gothic novel. I thought I was going to get some spooky old house that Jacob would spend most of the book exploring. He'd find old letters and slowly unravel the mystery and dastardly history of the house and its (potentially dangerous!) occupants.
This is so NOT what happens. I'm not sure if I'd even classify this as a Gothic book. For the first, oh, let's just call it a third, of the book I got more or less the set up to what I was expecting. The Pivotal Event happens that sets Jacob on his journey to the mysterious island and I even got to see the spooky house (though that house was SUCH a letdown. Part of the draw to vicariously exploring those Gothic houses is the mansion porn! Don't give me a dump!)
But then, oh then the story takes a very unexpected turn (if you want the genre, highlight that ---> think X-Men type kids--who are NOT bad, but stuck in the 1940s, with sort-of-time-travel). If I had known this plot point was coming I would have been totally on board. I love that kind of thing! But it was such an unexpected turn that I'm still reeling from the shift and sort of let down that I didn't get the story I was expecting. Blurb writers, why do you mislead me?! Deception like this will never score you points with me.
I need more than gimmicks, please
One of the biggest selling points of this book seems to be the inclusion of vintage photographs, and I'm going to go against the grain here and say that I didn't like them. When I first flipped through the book I thought they would be awesome. Halfway through I started making an effort to NOT look at the photos because they were adding nothing to my reading experience and even detracting from my enjoyment.
The thing is, they're creepy in that vintage photo way, but the story they are illustrating is not creepy. The characters they are supposed to represent are not scary and most of the time the photos jarred with the images the text conjured in my mind. Not only that, but they didn't seem to add anything to the story. I would have preferred it if the photos were not included, though I think I'm in the minority.
You're not quite right
This would have been a perfect book for the nascent genre of New Adult fiction (not quite YA, not quite Adult--think Saved by The Bell: The College Years). Jacob's first-person narration felt inauthentic to me as the voice of a young adult. I just wasn't buying that a teenager would speak and observe the world the way Jacob did. His narration and experiences would have been much more believable to me if he were, oh, say 19-23 years old instead of a teen in high school.
This wasn't a huge deal for me (I'm very used to "aging" YA characters in my head so I don't feel like a creeper when I talk about how hot the guys are!), but it does seem like a missed opportunity. I think adult readers who don't normally read YA would be a lot more likely to enjoy the story with a slightly older protagonist.
Jacob was also kind of a weenie, I thought. So many times he acted in cowardly or useless ways that made me want to slap some sense (or brains, or balls, if that's possible) into him. At one point he hesitates from doing what needs to be done because he's afraid of hearing the awful report of the gun! (Yeah, HE calls it "awful.") Pansy! Shoot her! Shooot her!!!
Thankfully there is a secondary character named Emma who actually does have the courage, brains, and spark that are so lacking in Jacob. I liked Emma a whole lot (though she was a little *too* caustic for my tastes in the beginning).
If this were a date...
It would have gone something like this:
He arrives at my door looking attractive and mysterious. I spend the whole appetizer part of our meal mostly entranced and wanting to find out more about him, even if he does seem a little pretentious.
Then he drops a bomb on me, and instead of being intrigued (or even turned off) I'm just totally bored. He rambles on and on about this new development and I couldn't care less. I'm at the point where I'm thinking of stabbing myself with the butter knife just to breathe a little life and excitement into this drone-fest.
He's blathering on for a while and eventually I tune back in when he starts talking about something interesting. Ok! Maybe this date does have potential! But then I realize that, while I'm kind of interested in what he's saying now, I'm not really sure I get it. His explanation is a little convoluted and I really want to ask him why he didn't just do X?
He drops me off with plans for a second date, though I'm not sure whether I'm going to cancel at the last minute because, gah, boredom and confusion, or if maybe I actually am intrigued enough to try for a round two.
I don't know! I want to read the sequel because everything is totally up in the air and the events that are set up sound like they'll be a lot more interesting and action-packed. There might even be a quest-type thing going on!
But, erm, I don't know. I don't really like Jacob and I wasn't exactly loving the slow parts (which were more often than not) and the less-than-clear world-building (which does have potential). I do appreciate the uniqueness to the world-building though and Emma is someone I could read more about, so, oh I'm very torn.
Explanation of rating system: Star Ratingy Key
Do you have any questions about Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children that I haven't addressed?
Feel free to ask in the comments!
Feel free to ask in the comments!