By Ransom Riggs
Published by Quirk Books
ISBN 978 1594744761
The world of youth fiction can be an exciting place if you like surprises, because you never know what is around the next corner. Just when you thought things might be getting into an unimaginative rut, along comes a new book that pulls you up by the socks through its sheer brilliance and originality. You will certainly have never met anyone like Miss Peregrine and her peculiar children. When you do, they will thrill and amaze you.
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, by American writer Ransom Riggs, is a stunner. It is beautifully written and cleverly weaves old photos and handwritten letters into the pages. As tempting as it is to flick through and look at the pictures before you begin reading, resist; let them surprise you as the story unfolds.
It all begins normally enough. Sixteen year-old Jacob Portman is a bit of a loner, and he's getting through life as best he can. He is very close to his grandfather, who used to tell Jacob wonderful stories when he was younger. But now Jacob is older, he's starting to question some of the tall stories the old man has been spinning him over the years. He knows his grandfather escaped persecution by getting out of Nazi-occupied Europe as a boy, but his stories about meeting children with strange abilities surely could not be true.
Jacob is traumatised when he finds his grandfather dead in the woods. As he bends over him, Jacob sees a hideous monster hiding in the shadows. Or did he? Jacob has a nervous breakdown, and for a time things look pretty bad.
Then a chance comes up for Jacob and his dad to visit an island off the coast of Wales, where his grandfather once lived as a young refugee. This opportunity to delve into the past could be just the thing to get Jacob back on the right track and sort his mind out about Grandpa Portman and what happened in the woods.
Soon after arriving on Cairnholm Island, Jacob finds the orphanage where his grandfather lived. But that's not the only thing he finds: the children from his grandfather's stories are still living in the orphanage with their guardian, the strange Miss Peregrine. The building and its occupants are caught up in a time loop, and they are in grave danger.
Soon Jacob has to deal with a whole lot more than his memories of his grandfather ...
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is utterly imaginative and defies any label reviewers might be tempted to stick on it. The novel will, at first glance, appeal to readers who enjoy quirky fantasies, but as you read on, it becomes something more. The bizarre premise and a slightly darker tone are pitched just right for older teens- and adults who simply like a good read.
Go along with it, be prepared to get totally lost in it, and enjoy what only a good book can do.