Rating: A-/ I’ve been in a huge reading slump lately, and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children helped me get out of that slump and back to reading on a semi-regular basis. I finished it in six days (quickly for me, considering what a slow reader I am) and I’m excited to get my hands on the next book in the series! The author’s idea to incorporate vintage photographs into his storyline was really cool, and the hours I spent reading the book just flew by.
Jacob Portman is a privileged teen whose enigmatic grandfather dies under mysterious circumstances. Heeding his dying grandpa’s last words, Jacob follows the clues the old man has provided and journeys to an orphanage in Wales where the old man spent his youth as a refugee from Poland; only to find the place burned down and it’s inhabitants nowhere to be found. However, when Jacob digs a bit deeper, he unexpectedly travels back in time to a period just after his grandfather left the orphanage to go to war and meets a number of children with ‘peculiarities’- special powers that they must hide from the small-minded world (think X-Men.)
As it turns out, Jacob’s grandfather was uniquely gifted too, and it is suspected by the others that that Jacob might have inherited his peculiarity and is just unaware of his power. To add to Jacob’s troubles, the ghastly ‘hollows’ and ‘wights,’ abominations who thirst for Peculiar blood, are on the prowl, and he must keep his time travel a secret from his ornithologist dad. Besides, it might be awkward for Jacob to explain that he is romantically entangled with his grandfather’ old beau in a time loop that has played the same day over and over for a number of years. Better just to let his dad think he’s crazy, traversing the far side of the island and cavorting with imaginary friends.
Accompanying the prose are a number of strange historical photographs which, for the most part, haven’t been tinkered with or received Photoshop-applied embellishments. Most of these photos incorporated in order to portray the ‘Peculiar’ children and their individual abilities. What can I say about this book? The fantastical elements are just really cool. It starts out a bit slow and takes a while to get to the main conflict, but other than that it’s a page-turner. The narrator, Jacob, has a sense of humor (although I never really warmed up to him in the sense that I thought I’d like him in actuality) and it’s impossible not to get sucked into the fun of the kids’ Peculiarities. The orphanage is looked after by Miss Peregrine, a stern woman with the abilities to transform into a hawk. She’s keeping her students in a time loop to save their lives, but she can be a bit overly sometimes, and her wards are growing increasingly restless. Jacob’s arrival might be the distraction they need from their tedious collective half-lives.
I frankly think this book is a little better written than Harry Potter (put down your pitchforks, I like HP and always have,) it has less cliche writing and irritating repetition. It’s a little more adult than Harry (at least the first few books in Rowling’s series) and has some sexual references that might be inappropriate for younger readers. I recommend it for ages thirteen and up, twelve if they aren’t particularly sheltered. I’m kind of surprised to see it described as horror, actually. To me, it had more of a sense of wonder than it did of fear, and it would be a shame for parents to think it was nightmare fuel (though, admittedly, every kid is different, and it might affect a twelve year old differently than it would affect a grown person like me.)
Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, obviously a lot of creativity and energy was put into developing the story and the characters and it pays off. I cannot wait for the movie adaptation to come out (can Tim Burton get himself out of his slump?,) it might just be something I’ll go to the theater to see; though it seems like it’s going to be quite a bit different (different good? We’ll see.) The Peculiar’s universe is one you’ll want to stick around in for a sequel. If you like magic and time travel and crave imaginative alternate worlds written out on the page, you can’t go wrong with this wonderful book.