Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review #48: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review #48: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar ChildrenMiss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Series: Miss Peregrine #1
Published by Quirk Books on June 4, 2013
Genres: Historical, Magical Realism, Mystery, Paranormal, Time Travel
Pages: 368
Format: Paperback
Source: Won
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four-stars

A horrific family tragedy sends Jacob, 16, to a remote island off Wales, to the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, where he finds unusual old photographs. The children, one his grandfather, were more than peculiar, perhaps dangerous, quarantined for good reason - and maybe still alive.

Recommended by: Scott Pilgrim (Scott Reads It)

Once again, I am sitting here laughing at the difference between actuality and expectation. For a book that’s highly hyped, I had no idea what Miss Peregrine’s was about. Based on the cover, I was expecting a horror novel about a house full of creepy children who kill innocent travelers or something. Spoiler: this is not what the book is about in the least. In fact, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is something of a fairy tale, something of an allegory, and something real and powerful all at once.

Miss Peregrine’s opens in the real world with an ordinary boy, Jacob, and the stories his grandfather would tell them. With the innocence and imagination of youth, Jacob believed his grandather’s tales, but, as he grew, Jacob came to understand them as his grandfather’s metaphorical way of understanding the events of WWII. In an undertaking somewhat reminiscent of Art Spiegelmann’s Maus, Jacob’s grandfather retells the war in the guise of supernatural beings, rather than mice and cats. Such an endeavor makes the darkness and the fear easier to handle, putting some distance between oneself and the truth in a way that opens up the mind for greater understanding.

Following a family tragedy, Jacob is forced into counseling and finally sets off on a journey to Wales, accompanied by his father, working on the latest in a string of literary projects doomed to fail. In order to face his future and overcome his mental health issues, Jacob feels that he must confront his grandfather’s past. He wants to visit the home to which his grandfather went as a refugee, on a small island off the coast of Wales.

From this point on, the novel changes, becoming more fantastical, but always retaining a real sense of history and realism. One of my recent loves in fiction is magical realism, which Ransom Riggs does spectacularly here. Often, magical realism is the slightest touch, but, here, Riggs achieves that seem feel while building out a much larger fantasy element. There’s time traveling, wights, nightmare creatures, women who can change into birds, and children with powers. Somehow, though, it all feels so real, as though, hidden just beyond our site for their own protection, these people and abilities really do exist.

On top of that, the writing’s beautiful and complex. Though marketed more to young adults, Riggs’ novel is very Literary, with the capitalized L quite necessary. Miss Peregrine’s reminded me of so many things, but not in a repetitive or lazy way. It’s more like Riggs pulled elements together to form something new, while using popular stories to help achieve the proper tone and sense of familiarity that would play into the realism. For example, Riggs actually includes a couple of overt references to Peter Pan, which actually fits Miss Peregrine’s fairly well. A group of children in a land out of time fighting back a menace, and the child who comes from the normal world into this magical one. Of course, in Miss Peregrine’s, Jacob would be Wendy, which is good fun.

Though I didn’t feel much of an emotional connection, I didn’t mind that too much. In some ways, that freed me up to better appreciate the technical beauty of Riggs’ novel. I do, however, have one qualm, which is the weirdness of the romantic element. View Spoiler »

If you love beautifully-written stories or magical realism or dark fantastical tales, then you simply must read Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. It is not, however, a horror novel or particularly fast-paced. This one’s for the mood, the world building, and deep thoughts.

Favorite Quote:

Like the monsters, the enchanted-island story was also a truth in disguise. Compared to the horrors of mainland Europe, the children’s home that had taken in my grandfather must’ve seemed like a paradise, and so in his stories it had become one: a safe have of endless summers and guardian angels and magical children, who couldn’t really fly or turn invisible or lift boulders, of course. The peculiarity for which they’d been hunted was simply their Jewishness. They were orphans of war, washed up on that little island in a tide of blood. What made them amazing wasn’t that they had miraculous powers; that they had escaped the ghettos and gas chambers was miracle enough.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

Kinda like this, only gender-swapped and creepier.

Kinda like this, only gender-swapped and creepier.


Up Next:

Cress

The next Sadie Hawkins Sunday book will be Marissa Meyer’s Cress, which I actually read a while back, but I wanted to save the review for not tooo far out from publication. Check back next week to find out why I loved it!

Want to tell me what to read? Fill out the following form with a suggestion! For more details, check this post.

8 responses to “Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review #48: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”

  1. I think I agree with you. I know I liked this one and I remember loving the writing. Also agree about the romance. It was just weird and unnecessary.
    Kara @ Great Imaginations recently posted…Stacking the Shelves #69My Profile

  2. I’m glad you ended up enjoying this one! I didn’t feel any emotional connection either, but I certainly enjoyed reading it. The romance though… NOPE. I’m normally all for creepy ships, but this was just weird. And they were a bit young, I’m not gonna lie.

    Oh my god, I’m getting old.
    Amber @ Books of Amber recently posted…Amber’s 2013 End of Year Survey and Blogging BreakMy Profile

  3. Lyn Kaye says:

    I read this one for a book club. I liked the writing, and the photos really enhanced the story, but I thought the story was clunky. Sweet, review!
    Lyn Kaye recently posted…Stacking the Shelves #69My Profile

  4. Kayla Beck says:

    So glad that you read this and loved it. This is one of my favorite YA novels because it showed me that the genre was not ALWAYS literature with training wheels.
    Kayla Beck recently posted…Back to the Classics Challenge 2014My Profile

  5. Glad you enjoyed this one because I’ve got it on the stacks to read soon. Sounds like it will be something that I really enjoy!
    Dana (Little Lovely Books) recently posted…#ReadingCram check inMy Profile

  6. Nori says:

    I also thought this one was written well. Though, it does come as a hard sell sometimes for YA readers because of the writing style, and what I thought of as a rather slow beginning. Yes, I agree that there were some strange things about the romance, but I don’t think it took away from the story; I think it added to the whole creepy factor that was setup with the creepy photos.
    Nori recently posted…Waiting on Wednesday (75)My Profile

  7. Krys says:

    I like your review.
    I felt a little disappointed and unfulfilled by the end. I hope the next book will change those feelings for me.
    Krys recently posted…This Year: 2013My Profile

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