4 out of 5 peculiar stars
This is the 2nd time I’ve read this, and it holds up really well! My story with this book is one of my favorites. It literally showed up on my Amazon feed as a suggested read. I read the name, clicked the picture, read the blurb and shouted ‘HELLS YEAH!’ into my empty apartment. I bought it, downloaded it on my Kindle and began reading it within 2 minutes of knowing the book existed. I really enjoyed it. The fact that it involves spooky Victorian (and later era) photos is pretty much what pushed me over the edge and had me download it so fast. They do not disappoint. Now – you see a photo of the actual book up there. Well, that first old style Kindle showed the photos of the kids and the inserted handwritten things really well. Sadly, the newer read-only Kindles (meaning the ones that aren’t also tablets, I have the Paperwhite) took a huge step backward in the graphics department, and when I downloaded the 2nd one, I was so disappointed with the reading experience. I couldn’t read anything that was hand written below the images and felt like I missed a lot of the story. When the third book came out, and I got a nice Walmart gift card, I bought all 3 in physical form. And I’m so glad I did. Hands down, these are the most beautiful books I own. It’s not just the exterior that looks purty. The interior design is gorgeous and harkens back to the olden-times of book publishing. They are very special books.
But now to the actual review. I love the first line. “I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen.” And talk about ordinary. Jacob works at one of the drug stores his mother’s family owns, and spends his afternoons trying to get fired. He knows his future includes being chained to the family ship but he would rather that be later than sooner. On the other side of the family, his grandfather Abe is far from ordinary. Jacob grew up listening to him tell stories about his youth in an orphanage on a Welsh island during World War II. He claims the children there had magical abilities, and even has the pictures to prove it. As a kid, Jacob ate these stories up, but as he got older, he began to feel like he was being fooled, that they were obviously fairy stories with cheap photographic fakes backing them up. Or were they?
After a tragedy drives Jacob to that same island, he finds the peculiar children and the secret of Miss Peregrine’s. The writing in this is incredibly atmospheric, but despite what some people think, this book is not a horror book. I’d say it’s straight up fantasy with some monsters. Because there are monsters – but any lover of fairy tales know that things in fairyland are not all bright. I’m surprised at some of the criticisms on Goodreads about Riggs writing. Some say it’s “the lower range of YA” and I’m like ??? I love his style as far as description and pace. My only criticism is that when the action gets going I lose my place a lot and have to reread sections to understand what happened. I think that improves in the next book, though. I still think this is beautifully written.
What Riggs does really well is balance the characters – because there are a lot of them. I really liked that not all the kids abilities are superpowers. They seemed more like hinderances to a normal life than anything. I think it’s par for the course for superpowers to be useful to the inflicted, and instead of lazor eyes or x-ray vision, it’s interesting to see a boy with bees living inside him and a girl who floats instead of walking. And they are up against some scary villains that are really hard to defeat. We find out that not all peculiars are kind and gentle and Miss Peregrine’s safe haven is in danger.
I think that’s all I can say without spoiling it. I am marathoning the series, so I’ll be reviewing the other two as well and can talk a little more about what’s up with the story.