Thursday, June 28, 2012

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

Published June 7, 2011.

Author website.

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.  (

'Twas I that was Keeper of the Book this month for the dear YAckers and out of the choices I provided MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN was the ticket.  This book was always a draw for me because, really, anything with creepy ass children on the cover has GOT to be good.  I mean it takes some serious balls to use such a horrifyingly repelling yet car crash-level intriguing book cover.  Truly these are the photos of nightmares.  Especially the children in white wrestler masks with the string.  Goo.  Nightmares.

But it didn't end up going where I thought it was going to go.  That didn't mean it was bad but it was far more fantastical than it was horror.  Here, just take a look at the discussion.

Donna: Almost finished with Miss Peregrine's and it's not what I thought. I was thinking more creepy children-ish but it's far more whimsical than what I was anticipating. Not a bad thing. It's really well-written and I'm enjoying the story but when you show me fucked up photos of old timey-children I'm expecting a fucked up story. Or have I seen one too many horror movies?

Sya: It's a strange book - I loved it and thought it was quite refreshing that he didn't overload the creep/horror factor - the pictures were enough for me.

Donna: See I'm a masochist. I LOVE creep factor. But those clown children are truly horrifying.

Donna: And I'm a little creeper out that the MC is messing around with his grandpa's ex-girlfriend. Keeping it in the family, huh, Emma?

Donna: NOW it's time to Bueller this topic. Since I realized that, for once, I read the book head of my normal four seconds before it's due schedule.

Donna: Bueller? Don't make me talk to myself, guys . . .

Sya: Sorry, I'm only just back from holiday and started a new job and have a big wedding to attend and so HAVE NO BRAIN LEFT! Anyhoo... I really enjoyed this book. The hardback copy (which was stolen from me on a book tour... sob) was gorgeous to hold and look at and the pictures absolutely fascinated me. The story itself was compelling and I particularly liked how the author juxtaposed the more fantastical aspects with very real historical events. Jacob was a good protagonist but I felt that the character I consistently wanted to know more about was Abe, who seemed to haunt the book throughout (which, I suppose, was exactly the point). I read it a while ago and still haven't found anything quite like it since. I also interviewed the (HOT!) author - you can read that (if you wish) here.

Sya: As you will see, I seem to be quite fond of using the word juxtaposition, which is hilarious as I have only the vaguest idea what it actually means.

Steph: I'm with you Donna. I did enjoy it and thought it was brilliantly written but feel slightly misled re. distinct lack of creepy fucked-up old timey kid horror. Beautiful looking book aswell, thought the inclusion of the photos to illustrate specific points in the plot was very clever

Donna: Sya, I only caught a single use of juxtaposition. I think you kept it in check nicely. I too like how he wove his made up elements in with actual aspects of history, his grandfather running from monsters, that kind of thing. It saddened the story a little bit, the historical part but it firmed it up in reality a little more. Not to mention the photographs ground it down yet again. Damn, those kids are creepy. I like how we're on the same page, Steph. If you're going to give me creepy-looking kids there better be some heinously creepy elements to the book as well. I wouldn't say it was whimsical but it definitely wasn't Children of the Cornish either. Yeah they were shut-ins but they weren't feeding people to their corn god. Is it weird that I'm a little disappointed by that?

Sandy: I'm still reading it but I'm enjoying it so far....Jacob's a smart narrator. I was sad when I read what happened to the grandfather :(

Donna: War-wise or beginning of the book-wise? Either way but you're bound to have someone go rogue. I think he was the only person that had to run to that effect though. I liked that he broke away. I can understand how he wouldn't want to be a prisoner yet again even if it was a safehouse.

Sandy: beginning of the book wise. I'm only on chapter five? six? Nowhere near the end. v.v

Donna: Oh, okay. Yeah, it was pretty sad to see him die the way he did and to have everyone think he was totally batty.

Sandy: Yeah...but Jacob figures it out eventually and I'm glad he does. I like that his dad was present too; parents being around are rare nowadays. And I agree with you Donna: I find Jacob making out with Emma kind of gross. Even if she's still "young". It actually reminded me of Rose's relationship with what's-his-face and HIS grandson from A Long Long Sleep.

Sya: Yep. On the sliding scale of Ick, it certainly tickled my gag reflex. Yet key it really didn't detract from the overall storytelling which I thought was accomplished. And not just because the author was hot.

Donna: I'm wondering where authors are getting relationship ideas from. I think they may be reading/watching too much Game of Thrones.

Donna: Any other words of wisdom for MISS PEREGRINE'S?

Laura: This book kept popping up as of those titles that they randomly throw into the YA category because the book 1) has young people in it and 2) YA is so hawt right now and I've found this amusing from the start because honestly, throwing this book on a table covered in black covered vampire books and books with slutty girls in ball gowns IS FUNNY. It's too good for the association. Don't get me wrong...I love YA and there ARE some good YA writers, but on the whole...well, you know. I'm drawn to YA for lots of reasons, but I can admit that excellent writing isn't one of my expectations. This was a nice break for me. It reminded me that every now and then, it's nice to sit down and read a book with a good story, told by an excellent writer who knows what the hell he's doing. GOD, sometimes it's just nice to READ REAL WORDS.

Donna: Your contribution is appreciated.

Laura: "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."


Laura: My physical treatment of this book was nearly criminal. I dog-ear a page whenever there is a passage I like. This book looks like some sort of origami chicken.

Donna: Truly, MISS PEREGRINE'S should be a standard for YA. I wouldn't be so disappointed all the time if that were so.

Sya: It is beautifully written - here's hoping it heralds more in the way of, well, awesome words in YA.

So generally speaking we loved it.  It stands out from the rest of the YA crowd not only in premise but in sheer awesomesauce writing.  There is a standard here that isn't too far-reaching but blows so much else out of the water that once you finish reading you can't help but declare "YOU'VE SUNK MY BATTLESHIP!"

So it didn't turn out like I thought.  I'm okay with that.  The creepy photos of small children are still epically horrifying and the story was pretty damn good too.  I'm glad MISS PEREGRINE'S lived up to its hype.  In a reading world where where I'm exceedingly hesitant to latch onto anything hype-like I'm glad I did it with this one.  Funky, chilling and at times something resembling whimsical, MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN is a definite must-read for anyone dying for something GOOD.  Just damn good.

Participating YAckers -

Yours truly
Sya at The Mountains of Instead
Steph at The Mountains of Instead (contributing reviewer)
Sandy at Pirate Penguin's Reads
Laura at A Jane of All Reads

Ban Factor: High - A somewhat fairy world where children get to live as children forever because they have special powers except monsters lurking in the shadows are trying to murder them.  Yeah, I think some banner just shat him/herself somewhere.
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