- Title: Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
- Author: Ransom Riggs
- Publisher: Quirk Books
- Year Published: 2012
- Setting: Florida and Cairnholm Island, Wales
- Point of View (POV): First person, from Jacob’s perspective
- Themes: Paranormal, Secrets, Family, Appearances, Courage, Identity
- My Rating: 9/10
- Favourite Quotes:
- “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” (Riggs 7)
- “I heard the generators sputter and spin down, and all the lights along the harbor and in house windows behind me surged for a moment before going dark. I imagined how such a thing might look from an airplane’s height – the whole island suddenly winking out, as if it had never been there at all. A supernova in miniature” (Riggs 96)
- “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 that 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” (Riggs 336)
*WARNING! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SOME MINOR SPOILERS!*
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a paranormal young adult novel about a sixteen-year-old boy named Jacob, who grew up listening to his grandfather telling him about and showing him photos of the peculiar children that he knew as a child. These children possess different abilities or ‘peculiarities’, such as fire manipulation, invisibility, levitation, super strength, and their abilities get increasingly stranger from there. As a child, Jacob believed his grandfather whole-heartedly, but as he aged, he began suspecting that the photos were doctored and his grandfather had been making up stories all along. One day, Jacob’s grandfather is killed by a horrific creature and his last words are a riddle for Jacob: “Find the bird. In the loop. On the other side of the old man’s grave. September third, 1940” (Riggs 30). Because no one else saw the monster, Jacob is sent to a psychiatrist, Dr. Golan. Jacob soon solves part of the riddle and decides he needs to find the island off of Wales from his grandfather’s stories, so he can find the children’s home and the woman who runs it, Miss. Peregrine. After Dr. Golan approves of the trip, saying it will give Jacob closure, he and his father set off for Cairnholm Island. Once he arrives, Jacob finds the house and encounters some of the peculiar children, and the truth of his grandfather’s stories is undeniable. It turns out that the children’s home exists in a time loop created by Miss. Peregrine, so even though the children still appear to be children, they are actually around eighty or ninety years old. Every day the loop resets and they relive the same day – September third – over and over again.
The peculiar children that Jacob meets includes Emma, who can manipulate fire; Millard, who is invisible; Olive, who is as light as air and will float away if she isn’t careful; Bronwyn, who has super strength; Enoch, who can animate the dead for a short period of time; Horace, who has prophetic dreams; Claire, who has an extra mouth with very sharp teeth on the back of her head; Hugh, who can control bees and has an entire hive in his stomach; and a few others. Miss. Peregrine herself is a Ymbryne, which means she can manipulate time and transform into a bird, specifically a peregrine falcon. These characters were so interesting and it was pretty funny reading about Jacob meeting and learning about them all. With such a wide range of characters, readers definitely get to know some better than others, and I am looking forward to completing the trilogy so I can learn more about their backstories. This novel is driven forward more so by the plot than by its character development, but without the characters, the novel definitely could not function.
The novel really picks up when the characters start to suspect that Jacob was followed to the island by two horrible creatures called a Wight and a HollowGhast. Wights appear human, but have white eyes with no pupils. These creatures used to exist as HollowGhasts, terrifying monsters that “stank like putrefying trash; they were invisible except for their shadows; a pack of squirming tentacles lurked inside their mouths and could whip out in an instant and pull you into their powerful jaws” (Riggs 8). Hollows consume the souls of peculiars and if they consume enough they will evolve into Wights. Soon enough, their suspicions are confirmed, and Miss. Peregrine and the children must all fight against these monsters to protect themselves. The creatures seemed like something out of a nightmare and when the secret identity of the Wight is revealed, I was shocked! The twist was completely unpredictable and I loved how it made the book even creepier.
Although I wasn’t able to develop a deep emotional connection to most of the characters, I was able to connect to some, including Jacob, Emma, and Miss. Peregrine. These characters are the ones the novel focuses on the most and who we hope will succeed. Aside from the characters, I was completely invested in the progression of the story and I could not put this book down! I read Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children so quickly because I just needed to know what was going to happen next.
Ransom Riggs’ writing style is lovely, with its wonderful imagery and thoughtful descriptions. As I have recently visited Wales, I can attest that Riggs’ description of the beautiful landscape isn’t exaggerated at all. I also think that he captured the dialogue of an ‘awkward teenage boy’ very well, for even with the fantastical storyline, I found Jacob to be a very believable character. A unique aspect of this novel is the photographs that Riggs includes throughout it. These are “authentic, vintage found photographs . . . from the personal archives of ten collectors, people who have spent years and countless hours hunting through giant bins of unsorted snapshots at flea markets and antiques malls and yard sales to find a transcendent few” (Riggs Photograph Credit). These photographs added a lot to the story, at times allowing readers to better imagine the peculiarities of the children and at times serving to add a level of creepiness to the story. For me, they were a fantastic addition, for you would read about a character and then, after flipping to the next page, you would see the unbelievable photograph. This is definitely something that makes Miss Peregrine’s stand out and is a huge part of why I wanted to read this book.
Marcie, about to be “snatched by a wight as she waited for the school bus” (Riggs 236)
This novel can be categorized as paranormal contemporary fantasy, because it involves “paranormal characters (werewolves, vampires, wizards, fairies, etc.) in a contemporary setting” (Burcher et al. 228). Although Miss Peregrine’s does not include any of the provided examples, it involves ageless children with ‘peculiar’ abilities as well as monsters that could terrify you just as easily as traditional werewolves or vampires could. Also, because readers definitely need to use their imaginations and suspend their disbelief to enjoy this novel, it provides the opportunity for readers to exercise that part of their brains and develop their creative thinking. This is something that I highly value in the books I read, because I am a strong believer that “an imagination educated in part by reading fantasy . . . isn’t hampered by words like ‘impossible,’” something I think is an asset in real life as well as a benefit to readers (Owen 76). As a fan of fantasy, especially paranormal fantasy, Miss Peregrine’s was everything I hoped for as a book that falls into those categories.
I would definitely recommend this novel to anyone who is a fan of fantasy and likes to read something a little creepy. Who doesn’t love a bunch of kids with superpowers? Any age and any gender could enjoy this thrilling story. I gave Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children a 9 out of 10, because I loved learning about all of the story’s different characters, the creepy yet beautiful setting, the unpredictability was incredible, and the found photographs were such a fantastic addition. However, I wish that there had been more character development and I found the sporadically mentioned and very undeveloped romance between Jacob and Emma to be unnecessary and it seemed like it only existed to fulfill the supposed ‘need’ in young adult novels to include a romance. This is a trilogy I definitely plan on completing as soon as I can and I will be watching the Tim Burton film adaptation very soon. If you want something unique and fast-paced, pick this book up!
Burcher, Charlotte, Neil Hollands, Andrew Smith, Barry Trott, and Jessica Zellers. “Core Collections in Genre Studies: Fantasy Fiction 101.” Reference & User Services Quarterly, vol. 48, no. 3, 2009, pp. 226-231.
Hill, Beth. “Checklist for Editors.” The Editor’s Blog, 19 Aug. 2015, E.A. Hill, theeditorsblog.net/2011/06/07/checklist-for-editors. Accessed 3 Sept. 2016.
Owen, Lucia. “Dragons in the Classroom.” The English Journal, vol. 73, no. 7, 1984, pp.76-77.
Riggs, Ransom. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Quirk Books, 2011.