Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Hardcover, First Edition, 352 pages
Published June 7th 2011 by Quirk

With the upcoming release date of the movie, Miss Peregrine’s is once again in the spotlight. In all actuality, has it ever left? Spurring remakes, spin-offs and copy-cats galore, this novel is not the first of its kind but is certainly one of the more excellently executed that I’ve come across so far. I first read this novel a few years back, but decided to jump in for another dose before delving into the next edition to the series, and boy, am I glad I did! This was not only an explosive novel from a debut fiction author, but a sensational work in its own right as well! Yes, Quirk, the publisher did a wonderful job of packaging and selling it, but this one could also stand on its own once unwrapped, and that’s refreshing. It was creative and bold, particularly for YA, which I basically never pick up.

This is the tale of Jacob, a boy who, after years of hearing tales at his grandfather’s knee of peculiar children, feels that he has grown out of believing such nonsense. Until, that is a family tragedy brings him to the coast of Wales where he stumbles upon the ruins of Miss Peregrine’s “home.” As he explores those dark corridors and seemingly long-abandoned rooms, he comes face to face with these children and is forever changed. Tinged with adventure, oddities, danger in the woods and a touch of supernatural, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is an anomaly on the shelves well-deserving of the title.

We’ve all heard the old adage, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” but this cover is exactly what originally drew me in! After a cursory glance at the cover and venturing to take a peek inside, I was immediately rewarded with a slew of black and whites that quite literally chilled my soul and peaked my interests to the point of near obsession. Immediately, the book was bought, and that’s a pretty tall order for me; I don’t attract easily to the nicely packaged big read of the moment anymore. (In fact, oft times, that fact is a repellant.) What Ransom Riggs did here was not a first, but was most certainly innovative and, ultimately, visionary. This work took creativity of mind and spirit that all cannot boast; it took an idea and turned it into a journey with a cast of delightful characters that tickled and tricked both the reader and themselves in that enthralling way that children do. The orphans themselves were the star of this work, as I’m sure they were meant to be, and their numerous powers and personal oddities made them simultaneously creepy and intriguing, empathetic and entertaining because they still displayed all of the quirks that children do, the naughtiness and teasing, the reprimand and need to seek comfort and family in each other.

The novel started out in a way that made me curious, because it started with a story at Grandpa’s knee. Classic, but where would this take me? Yet, honestly, it was the brilliant and chilling display of photojournalism that made this one such a pleasure. A grand sommelier couldn’t have paired the photos better, I tell you, because there were moments when the combination was just unnerving enough to make me pause…for more than a few seconds. And Riggs’ use of vivid imagination was perfectly paired with those wild imaginings of a child or pre-teen’s, making the world that he crafted wholly believable and enchanting. Mind you, this isn’t the YA novel for Grandma’s generation. The backdrop of social strife in the real world that hovered outside of Peregrine’s island added another layer that made this read both suitable for adults and literarily elevated for young readers. Here you’ll find the appropriate level of adult swagger, as the kids today have, when they say things like:

“Were you just smoking and chewing tobacco at the same time?”

            “What are you, my mom?”

            “Do I look like I blow truckers for foodstamps?”

That made it all the more realistic, because our little sisters, brothers, nieces and nephews would certainly say that to one another today, making this one altogether enjoyable for all ages (well, above 11 or so, depending on the maturity level). The only qualm that I had with this one was the ending. In the interest of avoiding spoilers, I’ll leave that one there. Let’s just say I’m glad this one has a continuation and even more glad it’ll have its shot at the ole’ silver screen. Four stars. ****

Advertisements

Find Her by Lisa Gardner

Find Her_Lisa Gardner

Hardcover, 402 pages
Published February 9th 2016 by Dutton

Lisa Gardner’s Find Her sits at #4 on the NYT Bestseller List as we speak. Honestly, that doesn’t always say a lot about a novel for me—how many times have we all followed the trend of hyped-up selling and packaging by big-name publishers only to be disappointed upon unwrapping? However, I feel confident in saying that that’s not the case with this one!

This work started off at a sprint. No, no feeling around for bearings on this one. Immediately, I was gripped and immersed, from page 1. The flashback effect worked here tremendously well. In fact, the flashback chapters were so wonderfully used that, in the end, they were not simply a prop for other chapters or fillers to increase word count. Those flashes back engaged the reader in an engrossing account of captivity and abduction and completely changed the dynamic of the novel. Gardner brought the feeling of terror and desperation to life in this work, no sugar coating—rather, any less coating and the Motion Picture Association would definitely have to up the rating on this one if movie rights are grabbed.

There are glimpses into the human psyche that both grip and examine how far the mind and body can go before they break and what it takes to get to that point. The voice is staccato, sharp, clear, which brings the dialogue to life. Sarcasm and stoicism are clearly separated in a way that shows her skill with crafting voices and characters. Don’t skim or you’ll miss something. The shift in tenses was done well, from first to second to third person and back again. It was transitional, never jolting, never removing me from the immersion in that world to have to figure out what was going on. Find Her is absolutely a page turner that left me nervous to go further in places. Will I read something here that will change me, that will take me further into the bounds of the human psyche than I’d anticipated? That was thrilling, those brushes against the edge, against the literary precipice.

This one is the 8th novel in the series, but a new reader wouldn’t miss a beat. The characters are wonderfully realized, and there are enough references to past D.D. exploits to fuel a new reader without making it less worthwhile to actually go back and read those past books.

*MINOR SPOILER ALERT* The ending, though, where revelations poured forth and convenient explanations were given—as frequently seen as the wrap-up method on hour-long TV—was formulaic enough to make me cringe a little, but what does one expect from chart-topping crime thrillers? If nothing else, the formula sells (to say nothing of whether it works). And there are plenty of readers out there who look for just that—that relatable blueprint —to guide them in their read or in the conclusion of it.

All in all, Gardner displayed a spell-bounding display of her craft here. Despite the formula that peeped around the edges in the end, the plotline was crafted with more twists than Twizzlers, and there were genuine moments where the heart raced, fingers poised to turn the page with urgency to get to the next curve, the next theory, the next revelation. Well done, absolutely. Do I recommend this read for crime buffs? Definitely. But if you’re like me, a reader resistant to bow-ties, you may want to take that into consideration first. 4 ½ stars ****