I've been hooked on books since childhood, and still am. I usually have at least three books going at any given time. After nearly two decades teaching middle school, I've developed strong opinions about YA fiction. A married mother of many adult children, and a practicing Catholic, my moral paradigms do play into my reviews.
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs
This novel is built around a collection of very strange vintage photographs. Jacob, age 16, had an interesting Grandfather who filled his head with odd tales of monsters and powers, and showed him these remarkably creepy photos. As a child, Jacob believed them to be true, but as he grows he begins to discount them. Then his grandfather is brutally murdered (this scene is pretty scary) by what appears to be a monster, and suddenly some of those tales don't seem so impossible anymore. Eventually he convinces his wealthy but largely distracted parents to take him go to Cairnholm island near Wales, where his grandfather was raised, to find answers. What he finds there is in fact Miss Peregrine's Home for (Peculiar) Children. Still standing on an abandoned end of the barely-inhabited island. Still filled with children. In fact, the exact SAME children in his grandfather's photos from 60 years or more ago. And then we meet the monsters.
I do not think I am alone in stating that the photographs might be the best part of the book, and am intrigued by their very existence, from the dog-headed boy to the girl with the mouth on the back of her head. However, some of the pictures are never used in the story (the clown twins?) and I am wondering why. Perhaps a sequel?
Sadly, I am less thrilled with the story. The lead character, Jacob, is hard to like, and for me he seemed at times either way older than 16 or way younger. His attitude towards his parents and psychiatrist -- and most adults, in fact-- are annoyingly self centered. (Of course, he is a teen, and the adults in this book are pretty useless to him, but still.... this kid is a pain.) I also did not feel he behaved consistently, and found it hard to believe that a boy that age would use the flowery language he does.
Additionally, unanswered questions leave me feeling tricked: like why does the town keep experiencing the same day over and over? How does the Loop work, exactly? When did it start? Why don't the children act more like adults, given that most of them are well over 75?
I am also passionately violently uncomfortable with the romance, given the 80+ year age difference and the whole I loved your grandpa too thing. Kinda creepy. That said, I DID enjoy the writing itself, and the very creative ideas, even if they were not all as fully developed as I would have liked, so I found this an easy to finish book. I hope the author keeps writing. I would give the story a one star, and the writing a three point five: I am settling for the midmark, a 2.
While advertised as a young teen / older children's book, I would not let anyone under 16 read this. While not really all that scary, it has some very adult things going on, including a deliberate killing.