I heard an awful lot about Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs even before it was published. All the librarians were buzzing about it, all my friends (who, okay, are librarians) added it to their "To-Read" lists. And I let the excitement get the better of me. I bought it. In hard cover. Given my lack of storage space (see previous post), this is a fairly major commitment. And yet I found myself strangely... underwhelmed.
As a kid, Jacob loved his grandfather's fantastical and somewhat terrifying stories, made all the more believable by the strange photographs that accompanied them. There's the boy who can make bees fly out of his mouth and the girl whose mouth is on the back of her head under her golden curls. But as he grows up, he stops believing the stories and stops listening to them. Then something terrible happens to his grandfather and Jacob is left trying to puzzle together just who this wonderful, secretive man really was.
To figure it out, Jacob travels with his father to the isolated island where Jacob's grandfather grew up in search of the children's home where he supposedly spent his youth. (The expense is no problem because their family is independently wealthy. Of course they are.) There Jacob discovers an entryway into a time loop. The children who were his grandfather's companions are still there on the island and have been reliving the same day for seventy years. There Jacob meets all manner of strange people, the same kids he saw in his grandpa's photographs, and one of them is a beautiful girl named Emma who Jacob finds himself increasingly drawn to.
But a dark presence is drawing ever closer to the loop, threatening the home and the very lives of the peculiar children inside of it.
So there's the basic story line. There are loads of delightfully bizarre photographs that the author and nine other collectors found at yard sales, estate sales, flea markets, and antique malls to add depth to the characters. However, it must be said that this reads more like an exercise from a college creative writing class: "Connect these ten unrelated illustrations in a coherent story." The text is very obviously meant to augment the photographs and not the other way around. Okay, I know that's exactly what this book is but it must be said that the story is what should drive a book and this one simply... doesn't.
(Image from Amazon.com)
The story line should be suspenseful and creepy and heart-pounding but it falls a little flat. It started out fast but the book did the same thing I do when I go for a jog--quickly lose steam. The danger isn't real enough and the things that are meant to be mysterious (like the identity of the villain) were a little obvious to the observant reader. I didn't even realize that it was meant to be a surprise that Jacob has special powers like the kids in the loop. Well, duh. Finally, the book ended on what was obviously meant to be a cliff hanger but I probably won't read the second one when--if?--it gets published. I certainly won't buy it.
Lastly, time for a spoiler:
Emma is Jacob's grandfather's childhood sweetheart. I don't care if she hasn't aged in seventy years, kissing someone who might quite literally have been your grandmother is just kind of squicky.
(Note: I had a very hard time giving any book less than a B. C's are bad, C's mean asking the teacher to re-do, C's are average. As a chronic over-achiever, I have only ever gotten one C in my life so it seemed very harsh but I stand by my rating. The story actually slightly below average but the originality of incorporating creepy photographs into the story saves it and makes the overall experience slightly above average. Slightly.)