It was true, of course, what my dad had said: I did worship my grandfather. There were things about him that I needed to be true, and his being an adulterer was not one of them. When I was a kid, Grandpa Portman’s fantastic stories meant it was possible to live a magical life. Even after I stopped believing them, there was still something magical about my grandfather.
YA hasn’t been a frequent read – mostly reading adult science-fiction, fantasy, or horror – but the fascination of this title was too great for me to ignore. ‘Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children’ creates a picture of strangeness and stretches the concepts of imagination, the very genre I seek.
A family tragedy sets sixteen-year old Jacob on a journey to a remote island, and mysterious, abandoned orphanage. As he explores, he comes to find that the children that once lived there may not have only been peculiar, but dangerous too, quarantined for good reason, one that he will soon come to find out. A too-slow and dragging, but nice enough story to set the genre of YA fantasy apart from the others.
I tried to speak, but all that came out was little stutters. “But I—I can’t—my parents.”
“They may love you,” she whispered, “but they’ll never understand.”
The peculiarity of the children is what different this title from anything else I’ve read; a girl with levitating abilities who must wear weighted shoes, or another with a sharp-toothed mouth on the back of her head — as it suggests, peculiar, and the example of how far creativity goes. Take that away, and all that is left behind is a bland, borderline creepy insta-love story. At least with the basis of peculiarity, things such as Jacob immediately falling for a girl (and the same one his grandfather did decades ago) doesn’t seem as tiresome, rather reluctantly accepted under the circumstances. It does, at times, inevitably creep past weird into just plain wrong.
What does still dampen the story is the style, padded-out so much that, despite the clever concept, the writing does a good job of drawing attention away from it. A style which also uses food to describe character appearance, something which died out years ago. The photos scattered throughout provide that little bit more of visual aid, but not as much as I would have liked.
“I used to dream about escaping my ordinary life, but my life was never ordinary. I had simply failed to notice how extraordinary it was.”
Jacob is an arse, making most of his decision on impulse, and Emma has a rightful sense of suspicion and anger, but they are the only characters that feel believable. Besides the children’s abilities, there does not seem like much more that defines them, too many to name and follow after. Despite supposedly being the centre-point, Jacob’s long commentaries overshadows their limelight. Only later when it implies bigger roles, it again falls flat with a one-chaptered climax and rushed end, meaning I must buy the sequel.
Even though it has a compelling subject, ‘Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children’ lacks complex characters, solid plot, and stronger style, so buying that sequel isn’t exactly on the cards as of yet.