A Peculiar Story
Start writing a post

A Peculiar Story

A [critical] review of the first novel in the “Miss Peregrine’s” trilogy (there are book spoilers)

A Peculiar Story
Ransom Riggs

[Repeated once again, there will be novel spoilers]

Recently, I found myself neglectful of reading for fun. I used to do it all the time in elementary and middle school, but the hobby dwindled greatly during my high school years and to none in college. Suddenly at the beginning of this year, I returned to it, beginning with the book “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.”

"Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children"
Ransom Riggs
Reading Level: Young Adult
Pages: 352
Genre: Adventure, Mystery, Mild Dark Themes
Personal Rating: 73/100
Extra Media: Book Trailer, Film Trailer, Book Review Videos , Common Sense Media Book Review

What intrigued me to pick up the novel in the first place was the 2016 movie trailer. Directed by one of my favorite artists, Tim Burton, I had to get into the series. I read the novel rather late in life, the book being published in 2011. Per friends who read the book, they claimed it rather popular when it first came out and very good. Of course, that was on young adult literary level, and I was now opening the novel after reading legendary novels like Dante’s “Inferno” and Blake’s poetry and short stories. This review critical concerning an adult reading level.

As seen in the rating above, I was partially satisfied and relatively agreed with Common Sense Media rating. The outstanding point is the interesting photography on the cover. Skimming through the book, various other pieces of fantastical vintage images are included. Those in conjunction with the descriptions on the back, I expected a spooky tale, perhaps horrific that would make me question the universe profoundly in words anyone could understand. I was excited, and then let down.

Unfortunately, the pictures and images have nothing to do with the plot. At first, they are a device to introduce a kind of strangeness in the world, and pull the main character Jacob Portman into an adventure. However, they later are deducted to nothing but extra imagery that inspired many characters within the novel. They are interesting, but I wish there was more purpose for the pictures. They serve simply as extra media within the novel and for directing reader’s imagination.

Another let down to me was the lack of mystery-horror and quick turn into romantic-dull-adventure. Grandpa Portman (Jacob’s grandfather) is killed by a black monster, and the first quarter of the novel is convincing Jacob that he didn’t see it. It’s dull and only partially builds up Jacob’s mild character. A rich kid, he has no ambitions, hardly an opinion, and no fantastic features scream “interesting hero.” You can make the ordinary kid somewhat interesting through his voice, but Ransom Riggs truly captures the diluted mind of a teenage boy (yawn). I love male protagonists, which usually carry a blunt witticism not heard in female points of view, but Jacob is simply uninteresting and has a fake-poetic voice.

After being almost cured of his delusional witness statement, Jacob is pressed by his psychiatrist to put the event at rest at the source: his grandfather. Jacob goes on a journey, that only his rich family could pay for of course, to a small island town called Cairnholm. Another quarter of the book is Jacob wandering around the town, wasting the readers time with descriptions of the dullness and rain, and exploring the strange, dilapidated orphanage his grandfather once lived at. The descriptions are successful in capturing the country side of Wales, but no allegorical significance is put to the setting, the town and house, to make it challenging and interesting what-so-ever.

About half-way through the novel, Jacob discovers a parallel universe stuck in September of 1940 that houses Peculiars, or children with strange abilities. Why 1940? I assume it was to parallel the prejudice and hiding of the Peculiars with the Jews, but once again, no intriguing relevance is made of the reference. I will applaud originality of the parallel universes, or loops; they are made out more fantastical rather than science-fiction, which can be challenging for a writer. These children and their guardian, the time controlling and bird transforming person Miss Peregrine, hide in the loops from abusers of their abilities. I hoped for a “American Horror Story: Freakshow” turn around, which has a similar set up within a circus with awesome horror and social commentary elements, but it only got worse: teen romance.

Emma Bloom, a fire creating girl verging on Mary Sue characteristics, begins to fall in love with Jacob because he looks so much like his grandfather, “but more;” I suspect the “more” is that she has a second chance at love beyond the other dozen or so 10-year-olds in the loop with her. There are strange, almost forced, points of a tug-and-pull romance between the two. Why? Absolutely no clue. Their love resembles a Romeo and Juliet, where they can’t but are willing to be together, but again, why? Just to intrigue or appeal to the young female audiences or the young blossoming boys, who may or may not pick up the book? Nothing points to any extraordinary characteristics of Emma that are appealing specifically to Jacob; he even says something along the lines of “Virgin + Secluded girl surrounded by 10-year-olds = Sure, I’ll kiss that.”

The plot escalates when the children and home are attacked by the Peculiar’s greatest enemies, the hollowgasts and, their more sentient counterparts, the wights. Discovering that these creatures are what killed his grandfather, Jacob goes on with revenge, or perhaps his personal sense of justice, or perhaps his love for Emma. Jacob has no clear ambition, and there’s my main problem. We can’t sympathize or connect with a character that has no problems at all. This is a technique to connect the reader to the main character, a sort of step-in-their-shoes, but that hardly holds a reader’s minds unless it’s very interactive action, which most of the novel lacks.

Here is, perhaps, Ransom Rigg’s only commentary: those who do not harness their unique abilities are simply “just living” rather than living. Jacob never embraced his rich style life, his first-class privileges, to anything, good or bad. The children with peculiar abilities are comfortably surviving in hiding, equally not doing anything astonishing for themselves despite their clear uniqueness. They are the only one who can recognize, control, and harness out abilities is ourselves. This lesson is a good one for young adult readers, who are probably going through awkward times. However, Ransom Rigg’s neglects to integrate this possible theme with his plot, or not clearly at least.

Concluding, the enemies fall short on in their plan of kidnapping Miss Peregrine and using her power to set up an apocalypse that would empower hollowgasts and wights. The children save their guardian, but she gets stuck in her bird form and time starts moving forward once again. Thus, the novel sets up a convoluted plot for the sequel, “Hollow City.” The children travel off their haven island into war-torn Europe and to find help for Miss Peregrine.

This review was lengthier than expected, but I hope my point is clear: there’s nothing interesting is in this novel despite the intriguing exterior and inspiration. Why was there not more done with the photographs? The spirit photography and the conspiracy theories around it, why not include it? The main character, and even the Peculiar characters, are not compelling in personality. There is nothing of a plot, or an urgency of it, until the very last pages. The novel is basically a prequel to the second novel, which is just barely better and follows the points made about its predecessor. WWII setting, peculiar abilities, and romance are not made significant in any way, yet are written to be extremely important. Give it some backing! Connections!

A young adult book should be challenging to the blossoming reader, introducing these important writing pieces and techniques. It should have lessons that help build a unique character within the reader. “Peculiar Children” had the set-up, a close direction, but a poor execution.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
the beatles
Wikipedia Commons

For as long as I can remember, I have been listening to The Beatles. Every year, my mom would appropriately blast “Birthday” on anyone’s birthday. I knew all of the words to “Back In The U.S.S.R” by the time I was 5 (Even though I had no idea what or where the U.S.S.R was). I grew up with John, Paul, George, and Ringo instead Justin, JC, Joey, Chris and Lance (I had to google N*SYNC to remember their names). The highlight of my short life was Paul McCartney in concert twice. I’m not someone to “fangirl” but those days I fangirled hard. The music of The Beatles has gotten me through everything. Their songs have brought me more joy, peace, and comfort. I can listen to them in any situation and find what I need. Here are the best lyrics from The Beatles for every and any occasion.

Keep Reading...Show less
Being Invisible The Best Super Power

The best superpower ever? Being invisible of course. Imagine just being able to go from seen to unseen on a dime. Who wouldn't want to have the opportunity to be invisible? Superman and Batman have nothing on being invisible with their superhero abilities. Here are some things that you could do while being invisible, because being invisible can benefit your social life too.

Keep Reading...Show less

19 Lessons I'll Never Forget from Growing Up In a Small Town

There have been many lessons learned.

houses under green sky
Photo by Alev Takil on Unsplash

Small towns certainly have their pros and cons. Many people who grow up in small towns find themselves counting the days until they get to escape their roots and plant new ones in bigger, "better" places. And that's fine. I'd be lying if I said I hadn't thought those same thoughts before too. We all have, but they say it's important to remember where you came from. When I think about where I come from, I can't help having an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for my roots. Being from a small town has taught me so many important lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

Keep Reading...Show less
​a woman sitting at a table having a coffee

I can't say "thank you" enough to express how grateful I am for you coming into my life. You have made such a huge impact on my life. I would not be the person I am today without you and I know that you will keep inspiring me to become an even better version of myself.

Keep Reading...Show less
Student Life

Waitlisted for a College Class? Here's What to Do!

Dealing with the inevitable realities of college life.

college students waiting in a long line in the hallway

Course registration at college can be a big hassle and is almost never talked about. Classes you want to take fill up before you get a chance to register. You might change your mind about a class you want to take and must struggle to find another class to fit in the same time period. You also have to make sure no classes clash by time. Like I said, it's a big hassle.

This semester, I was waitlisted for two classes. Most people in this situation, especially first years, freak out because they don't know what to do. Here is what you should do when this happens.

Keep Reading...Show less

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Facebook Comments