Review first publsihed 21/01/2012
Ever since he was a boy, Jacob Portman wanted to explore the world like his grand-father, Abe. He would listen to the stories of when his grand-father fled from the Nazis to make a new life for himself in Wales and the stories of the extraordinary children in the photographs.
When an incident happens that affects Jacob profoundly, he sets off on a quest to Wales to find the truth behind the stories that his grand-father told.
Once every so often, you find a book that wrong foots you. “Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children” is one of those books.
I have to admit that about a third of the way in, I was going to give up on this book as I was finding the movement of the plot a little “ploddy”. I’m glad that I persevered with it as, ultimately, I had to admit to a nice piece of humble pie with cream and I enjoyed the book.
Without spoiling the book, the first third of the book goes into great detail of establishing Jacob’s backstory through his relationship with his grandfather which is the keystone to this story, his relationship with his parents – more specifically, his father, his “slacker” attitude and the need for the trip to Wales.
Another thing that slowed the book down in the first third was Riggs’ attention to detail when describing location and subsidiary characters. Again, I should have been thinking ahead as this is something that definitely gives some pay off, if you pay attention.
Without ruining the book with any spoilers, the characterisation is excellent. The only character I wish to discuss now is the character of Jacob. The book is written in the first person and Jacob comes across as a bit of a shallow slacker type of character to start with as he tries to get fired from the family company. As the book progresses, you find that he is actually a teenager of intelligence, along with a nice line in “industrial language”. Given the book’s premise, he’s written as an ordinary character thrown into an extraordinary situation but manages to think and be proactive, rather than react – a trait that’s common to the leads in the previous two YA books I’ve read this year, “The Name Of The Star” and “Forgotten”.
There is also a romantic interest for Jacob in the book which, given the circumstances of the characters’ meeting, could be seen as a little strange but is also tenderly written and playful.
Another thing that I loved about this book was the inclusion of photographs and letters at various points. Granted, it’s nice to use your own imagination to build a picture of the world within the book in your own mind, but the photos do help by layering a little dose of fictional “reality” within the book.
Somebody asked me to do a bit of a soundbite description of the book. It’s a bit of difficult book to pigeon hole as a soundbite as the feeling changes at various points. If I had to describe it, imagine Tim Burton’s “Big Fish” mixed with a little Stephen King, a good dollop of “Sapphire and Steel” (a British sci-fi series from the 1970’s) with a little dose of “X-Men”, a nice wedge of “Doctor Who” and a dash of YA romance. Stick them in a cocktail shaker , whoosh ’em up a bit and you get this book.
Very entertaining and I look forward to more books from Ransom Riggs.
Further information about Ransom Riggs and his books can be found at www.ransomriggs.com