What would you do if you found your whole world turned upside down, if all those fantastical stories your grandfather told you turned out to be undeniably, unbelievably, true – and suddenly your life was in danger because of it? What if those phony-looking photos you saw growing up of peculiar children with all sorts of abilities, invisible boys and flame-wielding girls, would one day save your life?
These are the questions that Jacob, the main character in Ransom Riggs’s wincingly gruesome yet impossible-to-look-away-from young adult novel, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, must answer after his grandfather is mysteriously murdered. Not for the squeamish, the intensity of the story’s most graphic scenes is only matched by the raw emotion dripping from every maudlin, yet breathtakingly beautiful page. Readers will find themselves instantly wrapped up in the emotional conflict between Jacob, his father, and his grandfather, and the very real dangers he faces as he learns the many secrets of his – and his grandfather’s – murky past.
This book would appeal to any teen struggling to make sense of a life in flux – issues with parents, making friends, or trying to find their place in the world. Anyone who has dealt with trauma will instantly understand the pain and helplessness that Jacob feels as he slowly convinces himself that the monster he saw kill his grandfather was just a figment of his imagination – and later, the guilt he experiences when he found out he’d been right all along, and that he could have saved the man’s life had he just believed him. Are our lives, Jacob must ask himself, defined more by what happens to us, or how we deal with it? How much do we control our destiny, and how much does it control us?
Jacob’s narration is as astute as it is relatable, featuring an honesty capable of being expressed only by a Florida teenager as self-aware as he was afraid of the world. Perhaps the most notable feature of the book is its extensive inclusion of authentic photographs from the time period, which Riggs expertly weaves into the story, as if to say, see, I told you so. These photos will surely leave you entranced by the magic and wonder of Riggs’s first novel, and serve only to make it all that much more real. If you are ready for a terrifying yet incessantly exciting world of death, life and love, with just the slightest hint of conspiracy, this is the book for you.
By Lucas Benjamin
Riggs, Ransom. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Philadelphia: Quirk Books, 2011. Print.