Title: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Author: Ransom Riggs
Genre: Young Adult Lit, Fantasy, Horror, Historical Fiction
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs is a young adult novel that embraces elements of fantasy, horror, and a touch of historical fiction for good measure. The story revolves around our protagonist, the sixteen-year-old Jacob Portman, and his quest to solve the mystery surrounding his grandfather’s unbelievable past. As Jacob travels across the Atlantic to revisit the childhood orphanage of his grandfather, Jacob finds himself grappling with his family’s past in very real terms as he also struggles to decide his own future.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is artistic, atmospheric, and awash with unique and fascinating characters. There is a general sense of impending disaster that hovers over the novel from the very beginning thanks to skillful foreshadowing on the part of the author. The gloomy and foreboding settings pair exquisitely with the incredibly unsettling photographs that litter the novel. To be clear, the black and white photographs that are copied with the pages of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children are all completely authentic. Ransom Riggs artfully inserts the photographs in the appropriate places to support and punctuate the novel’s plot and characterizations while also enhancing the rather Gothic atmosphere to great effect.
The cast of characters fit organically into the various settings and the peculiar children of the orphanage possess creative and unique abilities that embody wonderful elements of fantasy. From the ability to manipulate and control fire, the ability to fly, become invisible, transform, or bring clay soldiers (and other things) to life, magic pervades the world of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and is responsible for the continued existence of the orphanage itself. Miss Peregrine is particularly interesting and important as she is a ymbryne, a woman capable of manipulating time and taking animal form, who lives to protect the children under her care at all costs.
There are many elements in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children that are clearly inspired by the horror genre, the most serious of which are the wights and hollowgasts that seek the very blood of the peculiars. Darkness, tight spaces, danger, reanimation, and gruesome murders are just as important to the novel as the fantastical air surrounding Miss Peregrine’s orphanage. For the majority of the novel Ransom Riggs does a wonderful job of pacing the story, although there are a couple of points at which the story drags a bit (although readers may have different preferences here). Once the action really starts, however, it does not stop until the end. As for the ending, it is clearly intended to lead into the second book, so expect to deal with some unanswered questions.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is an excellent example of a “young adult” novel that is equally suitable for adults. The vocabulary and writing style are very adult and many of the scenes are fairly intense. I recommend this novel to teenagers and adults alike as Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will bring enjoyment to anyone who likes a good story.