If you don’t buy one e-book this year for reading on your electronic reading device – let it be Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. My wife and I were looking for a book that we both might want to read to download onto our brand new Kindle. We clicked through some menus, came across a familiar title – which we both vaguely remember hearing something interesting about – and hit the buy now button. In mere seconds we were reminded that it was the cool collection of found vintage photographs presented throughout the book that was the interesting thing that we had heard about the book. Cool found vintage photographs that look like ass on a Kindle. Dammit!
The found pictures are a grandfather’s proof to his grandson that the fantastic stories of taking refuge during World War II on a Welsh Island are all true. According to the grandfather’s telling, the island was home to a children’s home filled with kids with fantastic abilities and pursued by evil monsters are all true. When the now high-school aged grandson sees his grandfather attacked but what seemed to be a monster (large animal?) of some sort, he becomes more sure that his grandfather’s stories were true. Everyone else begins to doubt his sanity.
In therapy, the grandson plans a trip to Wales to visit the island. Everyone agrees that having the boy see that the setting of his grandfather’s stories is a non-magical island in the middle of nowhere will be a step to getting over his delusions. Of course, the trip proves just the opposite, and the boy learns that his grandfather’s life was more dangerous and complicated than he ever knew.
The story is marketed for a young adult audience, and it often reads as a modern fable. The grandfather’s stories are a tidy metaphor for his escape from the horrors of WW II to the bucolic island. The monster’s pursuit of the “peculiars” through time highlights the inherent danger of being different. Miss Peregrine explains the dangers of being “peculiar” at its most basic level – “Can you imagine, in a world so afraid of otherness, why this would be a danger to all peculiar-kind?”
These themes of otherness are sure to resonate with the angst-y teen reader. For this adult reader, the story sometimes comes across as a little forced and chances to develop the thematic elements on a deeper level may have been missed. Still, it’s not a bad book, and it’s worth checking out for the unique use of found vernacular photographs into a coherent and magical story. But whatever you do, DO NOT read this novel as an e-book; spring for the hardcover.