It’s our first Book Buds Book Club review!
Over September we read Ransom Riggs’ Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, a gothic-style YA novel following Jacob Portman as he searches for meaning in the bizarre, twisted fairy tales he heard from his grandfather, Abe. With the Tim Burton film adaptation in cinemas now, we figured it was time we caught up with this eerie little world and share our thoughts with you.
It’s safe to say there were a few, uh, conflicting views. Let’s start from the bottom and work our way up.
Major spoilers below the cut!
As I’ve told the rest of the buds several times now I hated this book. It was the worst thing I read all year, and I read Twilight.
It did have potential. The concept was interesting, as were several of the ‘peculiarities’ exhibited by the children. However, Miss Peregrine falls into every pothole imaginable. The characters are unsympathetic (Jacob spends the novel shackled to the idiot ball and Emma’s characterisation is wildly inconsistent). It takes over a hundred pages to meet any of the titular children and the majority of this time is spent focussed on insignificant details, like how the teenage protagonist will convince his parents to let him travel to Wales. The action comes far too late in the novel to feel significant, and it feels like events go from zero to fifty in less than a page. Riggs’ tendency to tell rather than show means we hear the hollows’ backstory via Miss Peregrine before we have a chance to properly meet a hollow, which in my opinion rendered them much less threatening. Additionally while the inspiration from photographs is a good idea, several of the photographs felt shoehorned in (the bus driver) or were not nearly as impressive as Riggs seemed to think they were (the boy with the boulder). Again the book shows its wasted potential as the most interesting subjects (the masked twins) weren’t even included in the narrative (something I’m glad is rectified in the film).
However the absolute worst thing in the book, even worse than the apparently reasonable idea that a kid from Florida can get sunburnt after one day in Wales, the misstep that takes it from mediocre YA to irredeemable trash: the so called romance subplot. The romance in this book is between our protagonist and his grandfather’s ex girlfriend. It is, hands down, the creepiest thing in this supposedly spooky book. I don’t know why Riggs felt it was necessary to include this detail but it’s very hard to sympathise with a character whose argument for entering into a relationship is ‘well she clearly wanted to marry my grandfather but she’s hot so who cares’. When your main romance consists of a horny teenager and a girl on the worst rebound imaginable it’s very easy to lose respect for the story that’s being told around it. I hated this book, it wasted every good idea it had and my favourite part was when I got to finish it.
I give this book 1/5 stars and it barely deserves that.
I wasn’t massively impressed with it to be honest.
I didn’t gel with Jacob as a main character. He kind of came across as ungrateful and spoilt so when anything bad happened to him I was almost glad that it did. I had the same problem with the ‘children that aren’t children’; I wasn’t keen on any of them. They were cruel and mean and sinister. I wasn’t overly happy with the general portrayal of women in the book either. The main girl – Emma – was selfish, rude and vapid. Miss Peregrine was lofty and pompous. The reason the book has no pace is because she doesn’t want to say anything to Jacob about ANYTHING. Jacob’s mother is frivolous and drunk too. It’s a very male dominated book.
The twist surprised me though, I didn’t see that one coming at all so that was a plus for me. The pictures were totally cool and helped to imagine what these characters looked like. Good train reading. Light, not too heavy, but nothing I’d wanna read again, and I probably don’t wanna read the sequel either.
I agree with a lot of what was said by the rest of my lovely book buds.
I found the first third of the book very slow – I stopped reading it and jumped into something more action packed because I was literally falling asleep. I was vaguely interested in the grandfather’s backstory but the family’s treatment of him as the ‘kooky old grandfather’ was quite upsetting. The pace did pick up significantly once Jacob met Emma and the other peculiar children, but I still felt like the adventure didn’t really begin until three-quarters of the way in, which was waaaaay too late.
Onto Emma Bloom. Seriously disappointed with her characterisation. Not only is she technically an 88 year old trapped in a teenager’s body, making her relationship with Jacob questionable as it is, but she’s also Jacob’s grandfather’s EX-GIRLFRIEND??! Completely unnecessary and it made it hard to root for, or even care about, their relationship. Emma was very two-dimensional and she was very much the standard ‘strong, cold, cruel female who has her spurned heart healed by the love of The Good Guy’. It’s a known trope – The Ice Queen. Ironic really, as she has the coolest power of all – MAKING FIRE (criminally underused, in my opinion).
I realise the author is setting up for a sequel but it’s not a satisfying end. I felt like too many things were left open, too many questions left unanswered. The use of the time loop also felt strangely cruel – I know that it was needed in order to keep the ‘children’ safe (are they even children? Or grown adults trapped in teeny tiny bodies?) but at times it seemed more like Miss Peregrine had taken them hostage, refusing them their freedom.
This all sounds really negative, but I did enjoy the final two thirds of the book, and thought it was reasonably exciting and adventurous. It did feel more like a prequel of sorts, though, setting up the world for the next book. The fact that the photos used are all real and were found by the author and used in their original state is really cool, and I like how they were incorporated and were the inspiration for various characters. As Elen said, though, the use of some of the photos did sometimes feel a bit contrived.
Overall, I’d give this book 2 or 2.5 stars out of 5. Definitely not my favourite, but it could have been worse.
I think I’m going to have to play the devil’s advocate here, because I actually liked this book.
I didn’t love it, but it’s far from being the worst YA I’ve read. Like everyone else I found the romantic past between Emma and Abe unsettling. Creepiness aside however, I did like that their romance was not portrayed as ‘omg twu wuv *heart eyes emoji*’ in the way many YA love stories are. I also agree that the old photos, while interesting definitely began to feel clumsily inserted after Jacob got to the home, I didn’t like how the author felt the need to refer to each photo in the text when he could simply have inserted it alongside the meeting with each relevant character.
While I think everyone’s right in saying that the plot took a while to get going, I didn’t really notice this as I found it such a quick read. The obvious Sequel Hook conclusion was unsatisfying, but somewhat expected from a YA book. I have to say I think a lot of what I liked about this book was perhaps what other people disliked. I liked Enoch and his creepy ability and future serial killer demeanor because I enjoyed seeing the dark side of all these kids with immense powers and hints that they could go on to do terrible things – something that was further explored with the hollows, whom I found to be pretty original and scary creatures. I also have to disagree that Miss Peregrine is a gendered stereotype. She’s an archetype, sure, but more along the lines of a morally grey Dumbledore-type figure. I liked that there was a darkness to these magical homes – that by protecting the children they were also keeping them caged, stunting their aging process (I believe they kept their mental ages along with their physical ones) and robbing them of their freedom and how the children did eventually begin to rebel against Miss Peregrine’s leadership. In a way, although the hollowgast’s are the villains of the series I think the antagonist for this book was really Miss Peregrine herself, Jacob and the children had to overcome her secrecy, her rules and even her presence in order to begin ‘growing up’ and defending themselves.
There was definitely some missed potential and I did find that most of the characters were underdeveloped, including the protagonists. Partly I think this is because Riggs wanted to included so many photos that he had too many characters to introduce and explain many of whom weren’t that relevant, Hugh for example.
I’d give it 3/5, a mixed bag of good ideas weighed down by the photo conceit and the first-in-a-series structure.
I really am not a YA person, which makes this all the more surprising: I liked it.
The opening sentence was so awful and cliche that my expectations were set as low as they could be, but the prologue drew me back in. It was intriguing and mysterious and I cared about the grandfather and his stories. I also LOVE that fact that this book had the backbone to kill him off in a gory, traumatic and unapologetic way. I don’t do YA because I find a lot of it soppy; this could never be described as soppy. The hollowgasts, as antagonists, felt fresh and original. I’m so sick of vampires and zombies so I was really excited when the monsters were something new. Not just new – actually scary! I was terrified of these things! Same goes for the photographs, I found them really unnerving and I thought they added a whole other dimension to the characters and the atmosphere. The time travel reveal, too: completely unexpected and done in a slick, effective and powerful way. This book took all the YA conventions that I hate and made me actually give a shit about them.
It’s interesting though, reading your comments I’m realising that the only characters I have anything to say about are the bad guys. I came away with no impression of any of the main characters. I didn’t outwardly hate them but they just barely even registered. Honestly I tend to gloss over all romance plots in any book that isn’t in the romance genre (because who the hell reads an action book for the romance, seriously Down With Romance Subplots 2K16). The relationship was creepy, but no more creepy than Old Man Edward and highschooler Bella, in my opinion. Other negative notes: I think ‘group of loveable freaks’ is a bit overdone, the characters were very underdeveloped and on principle I hate any book that’s set up for a sequel. If you can’t finish your story in one book, you’re not that good of a writer. Overall, though, I was pleasantly surprised. Not blown away, but surprised.
3/5 stars. It has a lot of faults but I can’t deny, I had fun reading it.
Overall Rating: 2/5
Featured Image: Detail from the cover of Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children.