“…so one day my mother sat me down and explained that I couldn’t become an explorer because everything in the world had already been discovered. I’d been born in the wrong century, and I felt cheated.”
-Ransom Riggs, “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”
Rating: 4 stars
Days to read: 4
Part of my attraction to the POPSUGAR Book Challenge was that I tend to read heavily from two genres: young adult fiction, and sci-fi/fantasy (combine the two? I’m in book nerd heaven). The list forces me to pull from other genres, and often researching what book I want to fill a particular category has been half the fun. I started looking up movies coming out in 2016 at the end of 2015 and found a lot of really great options. Of course without trying what do I get for my first book of the year? A fantasy young adult novel. Go me. However, one thing that I loved about this book was that it avoids many of the current YA tropes. No dystopian future, no love triangle (ok, maybe a tiny bit, but no cries of TWO HANDSOME SWEET GUYS LOVE ME WHATEVER SHALL I DO BESIDES WALLOW IN INDECISIVENESS FOR 3 BOOKS?!), and no whiny over the top teenage angst. The book angels sing hallelujah.
Without realizing that this book is actually part 1 of a trilogy, I really enjoyed that Riggs takes a long time setting the scene with Jacob’s character and his world. Jacob is in many ways a quite ordinary teen but thankfully Riggs allows us to explore a part of his life that does not solely revolve around budding romantic feelings and the accompanying misadventures. He feels burdened by his seemingly ordinary life and longs for the extraordinary. For the longest time I wasn’t completely sure that the book was a fantasy novel (is his granddad crazy? Does he really see monsters?) and I think therein lies the beauty of Riggs’s storytelling. We have to learn, with Jacob, whether or not to trust his granddad’s crazy stories. Once Jacob finds a way to visit the orphanage in Wales where his grandfather grew up, I felt with his character the anxious desire to explore and discover and break from the ordinary.
At a certain point in a reader’s life you begin to feel like many stories are just versions of each other. We love those stories though, and so we keep reading and enjoy each new take. In many ways this book seemed new (see lack of YA tropes above), mostly because I really loved the time travel loop that governs the orphanage and the ongoing battle between hollowgasts and the ymbrynes. Of course, the structure of the book can be well placed within a more general narrative arc as with any fiction work, but this particular showdown between good and evil (especially the desire for power and immortality) feels fresh. I can’t wait to learn more about the hollowgasts and watch Jacob’s character transform through the adventure.
My one reservation is that I’m not sure what to make of Jacob falling in love with his grandfather’s old flame… it feels like a plot element you’d find in a Palahniuk novel (see: Rant). Throughout this first book their interactions have been fairly tame and Jacob and Emma seem to be slowly processing the complicated (understatement) feelings they have. I’m slightly wary of this subplot becoming a large portion of the narrative but hoping the main focus will remain Jacob’s development as he takes on the responsibility of a dangerous but exciting mission. The movie is scheduled for a Christmas release and although I’m happy to have imagined everything on my own first as a reader, I’m really looking forward to experiencing this world through Tim Burton’s eyes.