Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

October 5, 2011
By Blaker GOLD, Portland, Maine
Blaker GOLD, Portland, Maine
15 articles 9 photos 38 comments

As a child, Jacob was close with his grandfather, Abe. He would tell Jacob tales of his past. These many accounts were part of his childhood spent in Wales in a children’s home. He told Jacob legends of airborne girls, “a boy who had bees living inside of him, [and] a brother and sister who could lift boulders over their heads.” In Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children Ransom Riggs weaves an incredible story of Jacob along with his Grandfather, and in each chapter presents curious vintage photographs that confirm Abe’s fables but make you question the truth.

One may think of photographs as displaying reality, but Riggs reveals the ambiguous nature of these images. The first photograph of the book is described in a conversational manner bbetween Jacob and his grandfather; “I held the snapshot closer. The girl’s feet weren’t touching the ground. But she wasn’t jumping--she seemed to be floating in the air. My jaw fell open. “She’s flying!”’ My first impression of this example (as this was the first photograph shown) was that it was a manipulated image. It was distorting a small girl to make her appear as though she was levitating. At first it was a tad scary, how these images were warping reality. But as you continue reading they become more familiar and not as alarming or unsettling. Later into the book as the vintage images begin to appear more often and you become more inattentive of the photographs. You start to expect them, which thus makes them less scary because you are ready. The reader may wonder about the images, as they contort physical existence in such a way that you begin to ponder on what is actually there. As a reader I was taken aback. Turning the page to find a photograph confirming a described scene or person was surprising and truly a wondrous take on descriptive material. I started to wonder whether the story was created around the photos or the photos around the story.

Riggs Displays fine elements of raw writing in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Instead of following a chronological order, and connecting individual characters, he makes readers think, in place of stating obvious and indisputable facts. As a reader, I very much grew to like Riggs and the way he wove his story. With such an intriguing plot, and well-developed characters, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is overall an extremely well written first novel. But this is not what makes it special. What makes it stand out amongst most juvenile books of the late is how it manages to make you think. Not just about the characters, or the riveting style of writing but the way it twists your judgment of reality itself and your take on what is really there. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children invites the reader to make connections in the story and with the characters without being forceful or imperceptible.

Through the images and the beautiful writing, a tale unfolds revealing a parallel world where children with special abilities and talents are made safe from a cruel world stuck in the same time forever. Repeating the same day over and over again to protect them from persecution and a never-ending war against a brutal group that separated in an attempt to exploit their powers and take over the world. The emotion that emanates from the narrative and storyline makes this book unlike anything I have read for some time. The way descriptor words are used to grasp sentiment and reaction is simply breath taking. And the way characters feel is much more complex and abstruse than most young-adult books usually allow. Riggs leaves enough room for interpretation while characters develop and connect with each other.

An exemplification of the complex emotion in Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children is the relationship shared bbetween Jacob and Emma. Emma is one of the children at the home in Wales. She holds the ability to control luminescence. “In her hands she held a flickering light, which wasn’t a lantern or a candle but seemed to be a ball of raw flame, attended by nothing more than her bare skin,” as described by Jacob. Emma had been in a relationship with Abe at the time of his departure into the world. Although Abe grew old and carried on his life out in society, Emma stayed the same age as she had been the day he left. So, when Jacob showed up looking much like his Grandfather and the same age as her, she could not help but love him as she had Abe. Their relationship consists of Emma not wanting to except that Abe is gone and not knowing what to do, and Jacob falling for Emma, which leads her to love him as well. It is hard to tell whether she loves him for who he is, or for his connection to Abe.

Another example of the elaborate emotion is the relationship bbetween Jacob and his father. Jacob’s father holds very convoluted feelings for Jacob and his connection to Abe. He shows a very jealous side when talking to Jacob of his father, of how he never knew him for he was traveling, and how Jacob seemed to have a better relationship with Abe then he ever did. “Really, Jake, you were closer to him then I ever was. I don’t know- there was just something unspoken bbetween the two of you.” [Jacob’s father said.] I didn’t know how to respond. Was he jealous of me? “Why are you telling me this?” [Said Jacob] “Because you’re my son, and I don’t want you to get hurt.”’ This interaction was quite confusing. It felt as though he was resentful with the connection Jacob had with Abe. As if he was jealous of them. He had been drinking, but this was a very surprising interaction bbetween the two of them.

How does an author follow up such an incredible first novel? I’m intrigued to read whatever will come next. Whether it’s a follow up to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children or a new story with completely new and divergent ideas. Perhaps Riggs will come up with an even more creative and original way to exhibit his descriptive material as was used in his first novel.

The author's comments:
This piece is the first review in my homeschooling segment on writing criticism.

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