Goodreads synopsis: A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of curious photographs. A horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive. A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography.
(Major spoilers ahead.)
I’ve been wanting to read this book for a while due to its intriguing title and cover. It took me a rather long time to read because the opening was very slow. However, it did pick up eventually, and I read the second half of the book in just two days. There was a lot that I liked about this book. I felt a sense of sympathy for the main character, Jacob. I thought he seemed a little spoiled at first, since there are so many people in America (myself included) who are unemployed and would be thrilled to have Jacob’s job about which he is terribly rude and ungrateful. Yet, he does acknowledge his privilege, stating that he knows his views on money are limited in that he has never known what it’s like to not have any, and I greatly appreciated that. I sort of liked that contrast between the materialistic corporate world that Jacob comes from and the mystical land that he travels to. It makes it a little bit easier to accept his decision to leave his family. If they were poor, they would be a closer knit family who needs each other for support, but I got the sense that Jacob’s parents would be just fine without him. I also thought it was really fun that the trusted psychiatrist turned out to be evil. I personally never saw it coming, and I’m usually very good at predicting things like that. I think the neatest thing about the book, which I learned after reading it, was that a lot of the pictures actually came before the story, and Riggs wrote the book based on the photos he found. I don’t believe I’ve ever read a book that was created in such a way, and I think it’s very interesting and cool.
Perhaps my most concrete problem with the book was the way Riggs writes (or doesn’t write) dialogue. He seems to have a tendency to tell rather than show in this case. He has lines like, “The girl told me to shut up,” rather than having the girl actually say, “Shut up.” This sort of took me out of the moment and suddenly reminded me that I was reading a book. Perhaps Riggs is self-conscious about the fluidity of his dialogue, but I don’t think that this is the solution to that problem. Besides that, I did catch a few technical editing mistakes and inconsistencies, though nothing terribly major, and the rest of the writing is decent. I was pleased that none of his made-up words and names sounded particularly cheap (hollowgast, for example, sounds pretty cool), but I was stuck on pronunciations on some of the Welsh-looking words, such as “ymbrynes,” which I think Riggs could have gone over without much difficulty, perhaps through a footnote or even Jacob’s inner monologue. I thought that the scene where Millard gets shot fell short. The salt water would have hurt terribly on that wound, and he barely reacts. I’m not sure the children would have had the knowledge and supplies with which to save him, either. I also took issue with the way wights are introduced. When it first came up, I asked my boyfriend what it meant, because I thought maybe it was a British thing, and he told me that it’s generally used to mean an undead person. It was only much later that I realized that “wight” means something very specific to this book. I thought that should have been clearer when it was first mentioned, and I also wonder why Emma thought that Jacob was a wight when clearly his eyes are normal. My first thought was contacts, like Golan uses, but they wouldn’t have had color contacts back then. And secondly, color contacts don’t have pupils, so how could Golan have used them? Wouldn’t there still be a white spot in the middle of his eye? I guess we’ll never know.
I don’t plan to go out of my way to get the sequel to this book, but if I come across it, I may read it. I don’t feel as though I’m missing out on much, however, if I never get to it. I can assume that, after a long journey and some sort of battle, the good guys win and everyone lives happily ever after somehow.