I just wrapped up my series read of the Miss Peregrine books by Ransom Riggs. What a fun and frightful journey it’s been!
I first read Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children when it was published in 2011. Such a unique book! The plot itself is created to incorporate a treasure trove of vintage photos, each one weird and trippy — invisible children, one girl with two reflections, mysterious shadows, you name it. The creepy, odd pictures are strewn throughout the book, each one relating to the plot in same way.
The plot? The plot centers around an ordinary teen-aged boy named Jacob Portman growing up in a pretty standard suburb in Florida. His family is rich, and he’s bored and fairly friendless. Jacob has a strong bond with his grandfather Abraham, but as Jacob has gotten older, he’s stopped having patience for Abraham’s fantastic tales of monsters and strange beings — the tales that he believed whole-heartedly as a small child. When Abraham is murdered, Jacob’s family believes that he’s had a mental breakdown, insisting on having seen a grotesque three-tongued monster and sure that his dying grandfather gave him cryptic instructions for some sort of quest.
Finally, in an attempt to free Jacob from his delusions, Jacob’s father takes him for a visit to Cairnholm Island off the coast of Wales, where Abraham spent his youth during World War II as a refugee from Poland. On the island, Jacob stumbles across a secret portal to another time — literally. He enters a time loop, where it’s always 1940, and meets the peculiar children under the care of Miss Peregrine, a motley assortment of kids who all have bizarre gifts — the ability to fly, create fire, and control bees, among others.
But there are monsters as well, and Jacob eventually must choose between returning to the dull life he had before or staying and fighting alongside this group of new friends who’ve started to feel like a second family to Jacob.
The second book Hollow City, and the third, Library of Souls, continue Jacob’s saga, with non-stop action as Jacob and the peculiar children must rescue their mentor, fight truly disgusting horror-show bad guys, and yes, try to save the world. As with the original, all three books include generous helpings of vintage photos that illustrate the weird and indescribable other world of the peculiars.
As I mentioned, I read the first Peregrine story back in 2011, and always meant to finish the series. I faithfully bought books 2 and 3 when they were released, but by then, a few years had gone by and I didn’t remember much at all. So finally, I decided that this would be the year! I revisited book 1 by listening to the audiobook, then continued onward with the hard copy versions of books 2 and 3.
Overall, I enjoyed the books very much… although I have to admit that the conceit wears a bit thin by the third book.
The first book is full of quirky charm and delight. It’s a brand new world, and the author does a marvelous job of building that world, establishing the odd array of characters and the mysteries of the time loops. It’s weird and fantastical, but pretty terrific all at the same time. And even though there’s plenty of horror and conflict, it definitely has the tone of a plucky band of outsiders coming together to confront the forces of evil. Go, weird kids!
Perhaps the problem for me was reading all three books in a row, but somewhere along the way the specialness wore off and the series became just another adventure story. A good adventure story, but not quite as special. The 2nd and 3rd books lack the quirk and delight of the new, strange universe introduced in book 1. The middle and end volumes are good fun reads, but the peril and chase scenes become a bit tiring after a while. Even the use of vintage photos starts to feel old by the end, shoe-horned into the story as a necessity rather than being an extra and unexpected ingredient.
My inclination lately has been to binge-read series, but I do believe that wasn’t the right approach with the Peregrine books. Yes, I enjoyed them as a whole, but I might have enjoyed them more individually if I’d taken breathers in between.
Still, I’m mightily impressed with the world Ransom Riggs has created and the peculiar people who live in it. I recommend this series for readers from advanced middle grade level up to adults. Anyone who enjoys fantasy worlds and timey-wimey set-ups will have fun with Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children.
And a nice bonus for me is getting to look forward to the movie version, coming in the fall of 2016! I do hope the adaptation manages to capture the quirky flavor of the books.
Have you read the Miss Peregrine books? Will you see the movie?