Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
I very much enjoyed the World War II references in this book along with the pictures that were included. I do wish that the chapters were a tiny bit shorter - mainly chapter ten - just because I like finishing a chapter before closing a book. This week was a tad busy so it was nearly impossible to read whole chapters at times.
I loved the way they ended this one, it wasn't quite a cliffhanger - I despise those - but it also made you really want to read the next book. Sadly, I'm not sure when I'll be getting my hands on the second book just yet.
I normally wouldn't compare the book to the movie adaptation but I'd like to inform those that are thinking about reading this AFTER watching the movie, that there's some major differences. One character is missing from the movie, one has changed genders, and two peculiarities have been switched in the movie. I'd definitely recommend reading it to get a better understanding on the world Ransom Riggs made, along with a better understanding of the plot.
What I liked about this book (well, one of the things I liked about this book) was the sense of normalcy about the peculiar children. They just are what they are, and though they are different, they still go about their day to day lives in relative normality.
Things are different in their world, but the parallels between our own were interesting to me. What makes a monster? Does it have to be a "monster", or can it be a man who does monstrous things? I liked that the setting made the point rather than the characters or the narrative. It was subtle and well done.
I really enjoyed all of the characters and the concept and the world that Riggs set up here. It was fascinating to me, and the integration of the old photos worked beautifully within the story. The writing was perfect, descriptive without being flowery. The pacing was great, and the creepiness (mainly in the beginning) sucked me in right away. Reading this on my nook, the images would appear without warning, and many of them were creepy enough to startle me. I liked it. :D
My one complaint is actually that I thought that the antagonists, the hallowgasts and wights, weren't really scary enough, and the explanation of what they are was kind of meh. It would have been better to have had no explanation than the one that we got. I also don't really understand the hierarchy of the hallowgast/wight relationship, so that was an issue too. Hallowgasts are monsters that feed on living flesh, and then apparently after a while, they "graduate" to becoming a wight, who then lives a kind of life of servitude to provide meals for the hallowgast. Seems like it should be the other way around, wights serve the hallowgast and eventually become one.
That's really my only complaint though. I really did enjoy reading this, and I'm fairly certain that there will be a sequel soon. Should be interesting!
There is quite a bit of potential in Ransom Riggs's book. It is nicely designed, includes a large number of standard sci-fi/fantasy tropes, and the idea of building a story around odd "found art" photographs is intriguing. Unfortunately, I think the book needed a few more rounds of editing and revision to become something truly distinctive and special. The narrative has a hard time building momentum. It never created the spooky, suspenseful feelings that Riggs was trying for, and so the moments of horror and gore felt wrong. The story didn't earn the right to be grungy, because I didn't care much about what was happening, and the horrific elements seemed gratuitous. By the last third of the book it became clear that this wasn't going to be a classic story, but rather simply another entry in what passes for storytelling now: lots of details that connect at the end, and an ending that isn't so much a conclusion as it is a connection to the next book in the series. After all the recent years of conspiracy-laden TV series and interconnected film worlds like Marvel, I am weary of this kind of storytelling. I am tired of feeling that the continuation of the franchise is more important than a well-told tale. In a book like this one, it feels like cheating, this assumption by the author and publisher that they are creating another ongoing, unending series instead of a great book on its own.
When I started the novel, I was interested in all of the obvious echoes of other books and movies: The Others, Pan's Labyrinth, Peter Pan, Harry Potter, X-Men, and many others. But at the end I felt that the book rarely does more than play around with those references, not growing through them to become its own new contribution.
Riggs makes some choices that feel to me like lazy storytelling--especially in how he handles the time loop that the children are living through. There's an interesting, and rather disturbing, idea in there: that children would live the same day over and over, to the point that they are actually in their 80s but still look like children. Riggs opts to ignore this, making the children basically just children, not old people. But wouldn't it be at least a little bit odd for Emma to fall in love with a teenage boy all over again? Shouldn't Jacob feel strange about the relationship? It's never explored.
The central conceit of building a story around vintage photographs is a fun idea--until I realized that creating a story that way means that every so often a character will have to pull out a photograph, whether it makes sense or not. It kind of reminded me of old role-playing video games, where you might come across an object that you can pick up, not because it makes sense for it to be there, but simply because you'll need it in the next room, or cave, or whatever. As a storytelling device, it is both fascinating and clunky. By far the oddest photo is the two masked ballerinas on the back cover of the book. I just couldn't stop looking at that one. Unfortunately, those characters don't appear in the book!
I've looked forward to reading this book since I first heard about it, but I found it disappointing.
Also, I can't stand it when writers set books in the past, but have their characters use modern day jargon, or do modern day things. Sorry folks, as much as we might hate it, folks are part of their time, and books loose their punch (in my opinion) when an author tries to make folks in the past make modern day decisions.
Of course, a book like this features bad guys, and the bad guys in this book are so very shallow and no fun at all. How they came to be is cause for an eye roll, too.
After all that, though, I did enjoy this book, and enjoyed the motif. It was a fun, light read.
Full review at RB: http://ragingbiblioholism.com/2013/10/10/miss-peregrines-home-for-peculiar-children-miss-peregrine-1/
and at TNBBC: http://thenextbestbookblog.blogspot.com/2013/10/drew-reviews-miss-peregrines-home-for.html