Monday, September 12, 2011

Book Review: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Series: 1st of at least two
Release Date: June 7, 2011
Publisher: Quirk
Pages: 348
Received: ARC from publisher
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Goodreads Page


From Goodreads:

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.


Wait, what??

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.

Bottom line

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!


  1. What a fun review, I loved the date senario. I want to know the genre, but my IPad won't reveal it and I'm too lazy to get out of bed and look it up on the computer. It will have to wait until tomorrow.

    Geez it sounds like Jacob needs to grow a pair. I'm on your side I'm not happy when my YA kids talk in odd ways. It makes them out to be characters I just don't quite believe in.

    I definitely going to give this one a chance. I can get it from the library, so it's worth it since you did bring up a lot of good points.

    Great review! I really love your review style, mixing in humor always scores high on my readability scale.

  2. What a hard situation. I've read books like this where it's good, bad, interesting, not-interesting, and more all at the same time. I'm curious what surprised you so much. I'll have to read it.

  3. You know I've never seen a picture or interview with the author, but I did read he combs flea markets for those vintage photos. Get ready for more.


    Love your date analogy! LOVE IT!

  4. Darn. I was hoping that this one would be more enjoyable. I think I have more realistic expectations after reading your review, though it hasn't knocked the book off my to-read list. I'm still planning on checking it out, if nothing else than for the photographs! I'm a sucker for 'em.

  5. On cover alone I'd have walked right past this one...but now you've made it sound interesting and I need it in the worst way. Gah! Another one added to the TBR. Thanks :)

  6. Great review Small. Sounds like the photos didn't match the story and the characters. I would imagine them the highlight of this story so it is disappointing to hear that they took away from the enjoyment.

  7. I have this one for review and from the blurb I was really expecting a gothic feel and a spooky old house too. Now I'm not sure if it'll be my kind of thing.

    I was planning on reviewing this one for Halloween. Do you think it would fit that theme at all? I'm starting to rethink...!

  8. Mmm, your reactions sound very much like the ones we would have (particularly regarding the photographs, and the disconnect between the marketing and the actual content in terms of gothic creepiness). Good to know. Thanks so much for writing the review!

  9. I love your reviews! They are seriously so unique and I love it.

    That being said, I'm sorta bummed out to hear that this was just mediocre! I was expecting a spooky gothic read, too. I may just wait until this one makes its way to my library.

  10. That was a fantastic review! Had me laughing at the Date Scene!

    I've heard a lot of mixed reviews on this book. The pictures combined with the story is what really made it interesting to me, so it's kind of a downer that they didn't really correspond with the story.

    I'll have to wait until I'm in an actual bookstore (90 miles away) to take a peek before buying. No Amazon buy for this one :o]

    Thanks so much for such a unique and fun review :o]

  11. LOL, Save by the Bell-The College Years! I have no shame in admitting that I watched the show.

    The cover totally gives you that goth/macabre thing for it. The whole cover and vintage pictures freaked me out and I was waiting for more reviews to see if I should pick it up. I've asked several people who've read it and they all say "it's really not what you think". Now, I'm curious as to *what* this book is really about! Great review, Small!

  12. LOL!! I actually loved this book, but I know what you're saying. It would have been far creepier had he had the chance to discover Gothic mansion "porn" (perfect wording by the way!). I mean those jars in the basement would have seemed so much worse. However, I think the fact that the children were so perverse in their own way and how they thought made it cool. Plus, I had a feeling it was going to go something like that. I totally get where you're coming from though. Plus, that date scenario had my crying I was laughing so hard! Um..that's all. :D Loved the review Small!


  13. Love you're review! especially the dating scenario. Very clever ;) had me laughing for about 5 mins straight! I got an email a while back asking if I wanted to review this book on the blog and I think I shall accept (I've always been a sucker for xmen type books). I hope its not too late.


  14. That is precisely why I didn't buy the book. I spotted it at wal-mart, flipped through the pages, and thought, this is way too distracting and just lost interest altogether.

    I would have totally called you in the middle of your date with an "emergency".

  15. LOL!!
    I loved reading your review my dear!!
    I have to confess that I don't want to read this book - It just isn't my thing, and your review has confirmed it, I don't think I would enjoy it much.

    and it's awesome that you age the characters! I do that too!!! It helps me feel ok about talking about those awesome guys! :)

  16. Hmmm, I really don't know about this one! After reading the blurb I was still not sure where the story was going to go, and I wondered how the photographs would be incorporated. Sorry this one didn't turn out as planned! I think it'd still be interesting to read to see where it goes.

    Oh, and I loved the SHOOT HER, SHOOT HER!! video you included :D Haha, yes I actually did click on it ;p

  17. Aww, I was hoping you'd like this one. I haven't read it yet but it looks so good. Your description is exactly what I thought it would be about too. Now at least I'll be aware that its not! Thanks.

  18. Hm I like that this is the first review that I've read that thought that this was just okay. I was definitely quite shocked when I heard that it was classified as YA since the book doesn't give me that appeal during my first impression. I'm definitely still going to pick this one up though!

  19. It's so annoying when the book's blurb is misleading. Lol, I think you're the first review I've read about this one complaining about the photos. Most people seem to love them and the story but it's nice to hear an opinion from the minority. I'm still not even tempted to read this one in spite of all the reviews proclaiming how much they loved it; but if I do, I'll know not to expect a Gothic story.

  20. I can always count on you for a Jurassic Park reference.

    Oh I seriously just laughed out loud for like 5 minutes.

  21. What a great idea to write a review of the events that transpire in a book as a date scenario! Both amusing and informative.
    I still really want to read this though. I have a feeling I'd really enjoy it. I'll keep in mind not to trust the blurb (I usually never do anyway) and not to get too distracted by the photos though!

  22. Fantastic review and love the date analogy! I hate it too when blurbs are misleading.

  23. Gina, I’m glad you liked it! You know, I almost deleted the date scenario at first. Glad I kept it in! Jacob totally needed to grow a pair. He was so wimpy. I’ll be curious to see what you think of it if you do read it.

    Alison, That’s exactly how I felt about it! It was more a genre switch that surprised me. Imagine expecting a noir mystery and then halfway through it turns into The Lord of the Rings. Except, different genres here :P

    Heather, Hm, I haven’t either. I’m pretty sure the author is open to doing interviews though. Glad you liked the date analogy!

    Natalie, I think if you know the genre switches midway through then you might like it more. I seem to be very much in the minority, so hopefully you’ll fall on the side that loves it.

    Silver Thistle, haha you’re welcome! Hope you like it!

    Nic, The photos didn’t match the story or characters at all—to my mind. I pictured things very different, but I seem to really be in the minority. I just didn’t think they were necessary or really added anything. I much preferred the way the illustrations were used in Picture the Dead by Adele Griffin and Lisa Brown (THOSE pictures were very much a part of the story and even included foreshadowing).

    Leanna, Hm…I don’t think it is very Halloween-ish. It’s not a scary or gothic book. Have you read The Revenant by Sonia Gensler? I’m in the middle of that one now and so far it’s scary! It’s a ghost story set in the 1800s in a boarding school. That might be better for Halloween.

    We Heart YA, You’re welcome!

    Jessi, Thank you so much! I would definitely wait for the library. It’s not a bad book, but it’s really not a spooky gothic read at all.

    Kristi, Thank you! I’m so glad I didn’t cut the date scene (I almost did!) I’m totally in the minority about the pictures. Most people loved them, so maybe you will too.

    Rummanah, I watched it too! :D The curiosity surrounding the “It’s not what you think” is certainly working well for the author! I won’t spoil the surprise for you :)

    Jen, Yes! Those jars were kind of creepy, but then the reason behind them sort of disappointed me (that guy was just weird). I’m glad you liked the book more than I did! It was interesting to see how their situation affecting their thinking in different ways (like Emma compared to the jar kid).

    The Lovely Getaway, Thanks! I hope you enjoy the book. I’ve had good experiences working with Quirk.

    Missie, I’m putting you on speed dial for future “Can I escape through the bathroom” dates :P

    Alex, I’m so happy you liked it! Nah, based on the books you like, I don’t think this is really your type. SO happy to hear you age your characters too! I mean, they’re hot guys, but they’re a LOT younger than me :P I think that’s why I like fantasy books too, because there’s no high school or other things that make their age really apparent (and thus harder to mentally change!)

    T. B., It definitely goes in an interesting and unexpected direction. Yay, I was wondering if anyone would click the video!

    The Slowest Bookworm, Hm…I think you might still like this book. It’s different and I think as long as you know to expect a genre change it might be something you’ll enjoy.

    Cialina, It doesn’t feel very YA to me, but at the same time it kinda does…which I know doesn’t make much sense. I think it really is a perfect fit for the New Adult genre and I wish the MC had been made a little older. I hope you like the book! I’ll be curious to see what you think of the YA/New Adult point.

    A Canadian Girl, Yes, don’t expect a gothic story. I know, I’m totally in the minority about the photos. :(

    Logan, And I can always count on you to get my Jurassic Park references :D

    Aylee, Thanks! I can see you really liking this, especially when it changes. I’m really curious to read your review.

    Alyssa, Thank you! Isn’t it frustrating?

  24. Sorry to hear this one didn't live up to your expectations. I've read a little bit of the book and actually enjoyed what I read and can't wait to read the whole thing. Though, I do agree that Jacob's voice is more like he's narrating the story as an older man than as a teen. Your "Saved by the Bell: The College Years" line cracked me up! I usually age YA characters in my head, too. I like your honest though! Great review :)

  25. Yours is, I believe, the first review I've seen of this that didn't love the book, but really- who didn't love the inclusion of the photos! I'm definitely intrigued! I'm still not sure if this is a book I'll pick up, but I definitely want to at least look through it for the pictures!

  26. Awesome review.
    I hate being blindsided.
    Total turn off.

  27. Great review! While I do agree with you on the first book. TBH I found myself scratching my head a lot while reading it, the next two books are great! Especially the 3rd book! and I am on pins and needles waiting for A Map Of Days!


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