three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
54-Sept-Oct-2011
By: 
Ransom Riggs
user_rating: 
0

A-MissPeregrineTravel writer and award-winning filmmaker Ransom Riggs is the author of The Sherlock Holmes Handbook (2009), a companion volume to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's legendary stories, and a frequent contributor to Mental Floss. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is his first novel.

The Story: When his eccentric grandfather is brutally murdered, bright but awkward 16-year-old Jacob Portman leaves Florida for the remote, wind-swept Welsh island where his grandfather spent the uncertain years of World War II. Armed only with a collection of otherworldly photographs and his grandfather's outlandish stories of magic and monsters, Jacob explores the island, including the crumbling ruins of an abandoned orphanage, searching for answers to his grandfather's death. But the island, with its sheer cliffs, treacherous bog, and unsolved murders, will not give up its secrets so easily, and Jacob will need all of his wits to save himself and the "peculiar" children who, inexplicably, may still be alive and trapped in time.
Quirk Books. 352 pages. $17.99. ISBN: 9781594744769

Chicago Sun-Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Riggs deftly moves between fantasy and reality, prose and photography--the children of the orphanage were inspired by actual vintage photographs that are sprinkled throughout the book--to create an enchanting and at times positively terrifying story. And while it has a decidedly young adult feel to it, [the novel] will assuredly please readers of all ages, particularly those who enjoy a healthy dose of gothic in their fiction." Michelle Wiener

Christian Science Monitor 4 of 5 Stars
"One of the more fantastically entertaining young adult books of the summer. ... Kids who like Neil Gaiman and adults who love Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell will find common meeting ground here." Marjorie Kehe

Cleveland Plain Dealer 4 of 5 Stars
"For those of us impatiently awaiting The Hunger Games movie next March, Miss Peregrine's Home is right on time. ... The writer is skillful pulling together his many odd plot segments. ... I loved every minute of it." Rollie Welch

Entertainment Weekly 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The images give depth to a novel that at times feels a little light on character development, possibly because Riggs, eyeing future volumes, spends extra time setting up the framework of his story. With its X-Men: First Class-meets-time-travel story line, David Lynchian imagery, and rich, eerie detail, it's no wonder Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children has been snapped up by Twentieth Century Fox." Rachel Orvino

Onion A.V. Club 2.5 of 5 Stars
"On its own, Miss Peregrine's Home would be a serviceable horror-fantasy, one with the top-heavy structure and wish-fulfillment indicative of a first book, but with just enough charm to make it worth a look to fans of the genre. ... But the book never lives up to its own aesthetic, and the story refuses to get past surface level on the occasional odd idea or intriguing concept." Zack Handlen

Critical Summary

Sinister and spine-tingling, Riggs's supernatural novel prompted comparisons to Neil Gaiman, Susanna Clarke, David Lynch, and the film X-Men, but its delightfully ominous atmosphere and inventive storyline are entirely its own. Although the critics differed over Riggs's prose (some called it nimble; others merely serviceable) and storyline (some called it lackluster; others "squirm-in-your-chair good" [the Cleveland Plain Dealer]), they unanimously praised the unearthly photographs--actual images culled from collectors, flea markets, and swap meets (although a few, admits Riggs, have been digitally altered)--that pepper the text and propel the plot. "It's all great fun," noted the Christian Science Monitor, and with its gothic imagery, curious sensibility, and general "B-movie creepiness" (Cleveland Plain Dealer), Riggs's first novel should appeal to readers of all ages.