I picked up an audio version of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children on a whim last week when I was leaving for a long bike ride. It came out in 2011 and never appealed to me, but the title was one I’d heard of in a sea of unfamiliar books, so I gave it a shot. I’m conflicted. It’s not my style. There’s a historical and fantasy element that I like. Along with some talented storytelling ability, it’s been enough to pull along. But it also has a hint of horror that I don’t love. It’s not blatantly horrible horror. This is YA. But still, not really my thing. Since I bike for 5-10 hours a week, however, I kept going. I’m currently on book two. There will be five when the new one comes out in January.
If you haven’t read this one yet (or seen the movie), it features young man named Jacob who learns he’s “peculiar.” Peculiar children are those who develop unnatural gifts. For instance, Jacob can see the monsters that murdered his grandfather. And suddenly, all the stories his grandpa told him growing up–stories of invisible children, children who levitate or ignite flame with their hands–make sense. His grandpa was peculiar, too.
Jacob’s quest to learn the truth carries him back in time (WWII) to an island off the coast of Wales where he discovers the home for peculiar children presided over by Miss Peregrine, a shape-shifting hawk with a talent for looping time. He also learns that the hollowgast–the invisible monsters that killed Grandpa, which only he can see–are hunting Peculiars.
The storytelling is excellent, the premise interesting, and the characters distinctive. But Mr. Riggs is a little heavy on unpleasant details. Grandpa’s death while Jacob holds him in his arms is rather startling. And one of the peculiar children temporarily raises the dead using harvested (and pickled) animal hearts. The horror is kept within wraps, enough that I’d not have a problem with my teens reading it (though there’s enough language that I’d steer younger ones away), but there have been times I’ve been tempted to put it down. Alas, I keep riding and listening. I highly doubt I’ll finish the series, though.
One last unique detail. Mr. Riggs includes a wealth of old, odd, undoctored photographs that he has collected or borrowed from other collectors that illustrates the story. I’d never have seen them if I hadn’t accidentally downloaded the Kindle book instead of the audiobook at first and just left in on my account because I was in a hurry then returned to browse through it later. Interesting, but odd. Which is sort of a good description of this story on the whole. I’ll leave it to you to decide if you’d enjoy this one. If so, the book images now point to multiple vendors, not just Amazon.