Monday, January 14, 2013

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children Review

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children - Ransom Riggs


You see this creepy-as-all-hell cover and then you see the book is smattered with these weird and freaky vintage photos and you think “This looks like one spooky book!” And the inside flap continues to lead you along that track—horrific tragedies! Abandoned houses! Dead children! Wales! If that’s what you’re looking for…just flip through the pictures and put together your own story in your head because I guarantee you it will be 10x scarier than this book.

I feel like so much more went into the marketing and package of the book than into the actual content of the story. The cover is nice and eerie, the end paper and title pages are full-color (or rather, black and brown, but that’s more color than most books get), the paper's thick, and of course, there are those creepy photos throughout. It even has a book trailer. But no matter how fancily you wrap up a dead bird, it is still a dead bird.

 So, Jacob's grandfather likes to tell these stories about how when he was a child he was sent away from home to an orphanage on a Welsh island, he was accompanied by other "peculiar" children and supposedly kept safe from "monsters". As Jacob grows from wondrous child to petulant teen he realizes that his grandfather's tales are probably just tall tales. Then his grandfather is horrifically killed in an "accident" and Jacob heads off to Wales to visit his grandfather's old home as a form of closure. But it soon becomes apparent that his grandfather was telling the truth all this time. That's about as far as I can go without spoiling anything and that's about as far as the blurb goes also. But if you think this is going to be some really creepy ghost story, I'll save you some time. It's not.

 When I first saw the book, read the summary, and heard a bunch of reviews talk about how scary it was, I was really hoping for something like The Orphanage. What I got was just another YA supernatural fantasy, complete with tacked-on romance, unsupervised precocious teens, and a sequel in the making.

I'm not angry, I'm just very disappointed. Okay, and a little bit angry.
Admittedly, I don't read all that much YA (and this book is one of the many reasons why), but I can tell when a book is written at a lower level but written well versus when a book is just poorly written. Unfortunately, I have to say this book fits the latter. But the really frustrating thing is that it didn't start off that way. Riggs clearly knows how to write, as least some of the time. And I did actually finish the book, which I guess says something. Even when it became apparent that this book was not what I was looking for, I kept going because I still wanted answers (I won't be reading the sequel, though). However, as the book progressed, the quality of the writing seemed to decline. Maybe Riggs and his editor were getting too close to deadline or something because by the end, his sentences, dialogue, and plot points were just downright sloppy. Also I find it hard to believe that a 16-year-old in "gifted" classes, who uses words like torpor and soporific, has never heard of Ralph Waldo Emerson and lacks the ability to draw basic conclusions from fairly obvious clues. It's like Riggs couldn't decide whether this was an older teen or a middle grade book and then kind of failed at both.

Then there’s the matter of the pictures, which Riggs seems to use as a crutch, except that it’s a broken crutch. Rather than giving us a description of some characters, he would simply say something like “They looked like their picture” INSERT PICTURE. But the problem with this is that he’s not consistent. When he introduces us to one character, he tells us he recognizes her from a picture, and proceeds to show us a rather blurry, unclear photo of what I thought was a ten-year-old girl. And so I assumed this character was a ten-year-old girl, until pages later it became apparent that she was a teenage girl. The same thing happens with another character. We’re given a picture, in lieu of a description, of a little boy. And then later on, we’re given another picture of him only this one shows a much older boy. WHICH IS IT RIGGS? And then there’s the actual incorporation of the photos. Riggs describes the picture “It has this in it and with this and looked like this” and then we’d get to see the picture which just felt very…pointless. What I really didn't like, though, is that he gives an explanation for the oddities in each picture which diminishes their creep-factor. I don’t think Riggs realizes that not-knowing is far scarier than having a detailed explanation for everything, especially when the explanation itself isn’t all that scary.

There's so much more I could say against this book, but that would be spoil it and make this review longer than I'm sure anyone cares to read, suffice to say (hint: mild spoiler coming up), Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is yet another incarnation of X-Men/Harry Potter/Charlie Bone, and a poor one at that. If you're cool with that kind of story, then go ahead and read it because you'll probably enjoy it more than I did.

  Speaking of twins, 2/5 Fancies. 

Read Instead: A Dark Dividing by Sarah Rayne

1 comment:

  1. Agreed! See my review here :)