Whilst mourning the loss of his beloved grandfather, young Jacob follows a set of clues that lead him to an obscure Welsh island, where it rains a lot even in June (Riggs got that about right then). It’s here that Jacob uncovers the secrets of Miss Peregrine and her home for peculiar children and he learns that perhaps his grandfather wasn’t quite as crazy as everyone had assumed. Interspersed with (mostly) genuine vintage photographs, the narrative takes us on a journey with Jacob as he meets children more peculiar than he could ever imagine and is set to make a life-changing decision.
This book is having something of a moment: everyone is talking about it. That said, it’s been having its moment for the last two years as it hasn’t budged from the New York Times bestseller list. Perhaps it’s the up and coming Tim Burton film based on the book that is propelling it back into the limelight. Or perhaps this book really is just that fantastic.
It’s impossible to deny that it’s a beautiful book – and I haven’t even begun to talk about the words or the story. The book itself is a beautiful thing to behold. The typeface is easy on the eye and the formatting is visually appealing. It’s silky smooth and delightful to touch. And of course, then there are the photographs that for some reason, I can’t stop looking at. So Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children was already off to a great start – which is great, but it’s also dangerous. To maintain such greatness is difficult, and the climb to awesomeness is a hard slog. Did Riggs manage? I’m not so sure.
Of course, the addition of the photographs is novel (pun intended) and original – or at least it seems that way at first. It’s not something I’ve seen before, although I have no doubt the technique will be copied again and again, and I’ve got to be honest – it’s one of the reasons that I picked up the book in the first place. Ultimately, though, I can’t help but ask myself why this is so different from a normally illustrated book? After all, lots and lots of books have pictures. Perhaps this one is so different because they are photographs, or because they are vintage? This isn’t a criticism as such though: just because something isn’t a brand-new idea doesn’t make it bad, and actually the technique was executed excellently, with photographs slotting into the story at the right points and adding a whole new dimension to the book.
The story itself is quite a happy little tale, meandering through the Welsh countryside, quaint characters, and 1940s nostalgia. It plods along at a nice pace and it’s an easy read for the end of a stressful day. It’s a tale that you can enjoy without having to invest too much into it, which is great for when you need to relax and be entertained. In this way, it perhaps reads a little too much like a children’s book as opposed to mature YA fantasy and actually, that is made worse by the fact that Jacob and Emma seem more like children than teenagers, but that doesn’t take away the fact that the it’s a pleasant and easy read.
That might be a problem for some though – the easy, pleasantness of the read. Everything about this book screams ‘spooky’ – everything except the story, that is. The look of the book, the creepy and slightly unsettling photographs, and even the blurb with its spooky mysteriousness imply that the story is going to be eerie, disturbing maybe – but it’s not! It’s pleasant and plodding and all the things mentioned above. For me, the pleasantness of the novel worked but I could also completely understand if people felt misled by the genre.
In all, I feel that Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children fell a bit flat. It’s a nice enough tale and the photographs were fascinating. Riggs has a wonderful way with words too, creating narrative so beautiful that I wore out my highlighter. Ultimately though, this book left me wanting more.