Saturday, July 23, 2011

CBRIII: Book#33: Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

This book was interesting to me because it uses authentic vintage photographs as a starting point for the narrative. Riggs has culled some quite peculiar photographs for his story's inspiration, this is plain. The pictures are scattered throughout the story and used to great effect at times. It is an unusual device, to be sure, though I'm not certain the book lives up to the promise of the photos.
Jacob Portman is a young boy when his Grandfather Portman tells him fantastic stories about his childhood on an island. Grandfather was a child when Nazis were placing Jews in concentration camps and was sent to live off the coast of Wales. Now he tells Jacob stories about fighting monsters, peculiar children he lived with in an orphanage, and the Headmistress Miss Peregrine that cared for him. Jacob thoroughly enjoys his Grandfather's stories until he reaches an age where other children mock him and his own parents tell Jacob not to believe in the tales. Jacob tells his Grandfather that he doesn't believe his stories about the island or the peculiar children in the photographs.

Jacob reaches 15 years of age. His Grandfather's mental health seems to be deteriorating and is convinced that monsters are after him. After receiving a call from his Grandfather while working at Smart Aid, Jacob is forced to leave work to check on the old man. Unfortunately, Jacob and his friend Ricky find his Grandfather badly hurt. Jacob hears his Grandfather's last words, which send the boy on a quest to find out the truth about Grandfather Portman's childhood and the children he claimed to know.

As I said, the story basing itself around photographs that caught the author's eye is an interesting idea. However, the story is a big too simple and doesn't leave much room for speculation. There aren't any real surprises, save the specific lore Riggs is creating for the characters. It all plays out just as you suspect it will, with no big reveals that one can't see coming beforehand. 

I felt like the story began in a promising manner. Background was given and you realize that Jacob will be trying to discern whether his Grandfather is telling the truth about his histories. I can't put my finger on the precise element that doesn't sit well for me, but I know that this isn't the book that it could have been. Perhaps I'm being too hard on Riggs and what he's done here. Perhaps not. I do know that I could sit and look at creepy photographs for quite a time and concoct stories about them and be just as entertained. It isn't a book you should pass up, if only as a primer for the inevitable movie adaptation, but be warned that it may disappoint in some way.

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