When it comes to literature, there are two things I am particularly fond of; a solid narrative and vernacular photography. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children has one of these things in spades and it is unfortunately, the photography. It should be emphasized that this is both a debut novel and a young adult book, two notions that become painfully obvious early on. In theory it’s clear to see where the author was going as the idea behind the story is quite brilliant. In practice, it lacks coherence and fails to maintain interest. If this seems harsh, imagine reading two or three pages and suddenly stopping yourself because a) you have no idea what’s going on and b) you have no idea what’s going on because you checked out of the story halfway through the second sentence due to its tone and lack of sparkle.
The protagonist is one of the problems with this book. Jacob Portman is the only main character I can recall reading about whom I disliked to the extent that I hoped he would get lost in Wales and in the time loop in which most of the book is set. If you haven’t read the book, the general gist without spoiling it is that young Jacob Portman is told by his ailing grandfather of strange humanoid type creatures and that Jacob must “find the bird in the loop on the other side of the old man’s grave on September 1940, and tell them what happened.” Under the advice of his therapist, Jacob goes to the Welsh orphanage his grandfather has told him about to seek answers and to find the elusive Miss Peregrine. This kind of writing is exactly why I checked out so early on and why it took me so long to read the book.
Perhaps as a teenager this book would have been more easily accepted by my well-read-but-not-quite-adult-brain. As an adult however, it’s too difficult to let Ransom Riggs off the hook here. Young adults should be challenged by the material they read. It should provoke their minds to ask questions and form their own opinions once discussed with others amongst their peers and older. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children doesn’t provide this kind of platform. The excellent idea behind it all sits there throughout the novel, begging to be explored and nurtured, to be made into something captivating and enthralling to the mind that consumes it. Sadly, the idea, the crux of the novel itself, is left out in the cold and what remains is a half-baked story told through unimaginative and idle prose.
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Michelle Audrey 2016